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The pyrometallurgical industry is undergoing a major transformation as the need to reduce energy consumption while improving efficiency is a necessity.

The pyrometallurgical industry is undergoing a major transformation as the need to reduce carbon footprints and energy consumption while improving energy efficiency, is no longer an option but a necessity, writes Laura Cornish.

“The need for technologies aimed at meeting the evolving needs of this industry has become critical,” says Vernon Harding, director at Environmental & Process Solutions (EPS).

EPS was established in 2005 as a pyrometallurgical engineering company specialising in and promoting recovery, recycling and reuse of waste products. The company has enhanced its environmental capabilities further since 2009, following more stringent environmental regulations and the acknowledgement of South Africa’s energy constrained status.

“EPS has expanded its service offering since inception, but our pyrometallurgy roots remain a core business focus for us. To date, we have worked with all the major mining and metals groups including BHP Billiton, SA Calcium Carbide, Anglo American and Xstrata, as well as the mid-tier mining and ferroalloys producers such as International Ferro Metals (IFM).

EPS is an engineering company providing innovative solutions to reduce environmental footprints, which includes cash generating solutions for waste mine dumps, within the ISO 14001 footprint, i.e. carbon reduction, energy efficiency and reduced power consumption. “This is the cornerstone of EPS’s philosophy.” EPS has experience in chrome, manganese, PGMs, ilmenite, vanadium and rare earths, and ultimately aims to offer lower power consumption per megawatt of metal produced.

EPS is the largest implementer of industrial cogeneration plants in South Africa and has successfully completed a number of projects converting ‘waste’ gas or heat into energy. The company offers a full turnkey plant solution or build, own, operate (BOO) cogeneration facilities and can build containerised plants from as small as 250 kW up to 25 MW. Some of its most recent work to date includes a 17 MW cogeneration power plant for IFM as well as an 8 MW plant for SA Calcium Carbide.

“The IFM integrated clean energy project is a first of its kind in South Africa and signals the start of large-scale cogeneration power plants in the country.” This cogeneration project entails the reticulation, cleaning and preparation of 16 000 Nm³/h furnace export gas to a cogeneration facility. Power is generated from the gas with internal combustion engines fitted with a generator enclosed in a building at a separate greenfield facility on the IFM site. The plant hosts 10 internal combustion machines. Each engine is capable of producing approximately 1.7 MW of electricity with a 37% electrical efficiency.

In early September, EPS commenced with a 5 MW cogeneration project for Anglo American Platinum’s ACP plant at the Waterval smelter, which will also convert waste heat into energy. “Like the IFM project, this will be a first-of-its-kind plant, thanks to our Thermal Harvesting technology concept that has numerous patents.

The Thermal Harvesting process consists of: “harvesting thermal energy and transferring it to an organic rankine or similar cycle; the thermal energy can be efficiently converted into electricity. This is attractive because we can generate power from waste streams for 150⁰C waste stacks.”

On the back of its successes in South Africa, EPS is looking to take its technology solutions to Africa. “Our vision is to distribute clean, energy efficient power generation plants for mining and minerals companies in Africa where electricity is difficult to come by. What we are offering primarily is a more operationally cost-effective alternative to diesel generators. We have aligned ourselves with metallurgical engineers Mineral Resource Development, and together can offer clients both process plants and the downstream furnaces and smelters necessary to produce power.”

The company is currently busy with four projects in Africa – all converting waste to energy. This includes a methane mine venting project, an oil and discard gas flaring project and a municipal waste project.

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