RUSAL intends to complete the development of a feasibility study in 2018 for the construction of a scandium oxide production unit at one of its Russian operations.
Such a development adds to the company completing another series of pilot-scale tests in 2017 to recover scandium oxide from red mud on its new unit constructed at the Urals Aluminum Smelter (UAZ).
The technology encompasses processing red mud from alumina refineries and making scandium oxide as a by-product. This advancement boasts a fundamental difference from attempts by other companies’ at starting an economically feasible production of scandium. At RUSAL, the red mud processing technique was embedded into the conventional alumina production system; it does not require any acidic, toxic or fire-hazardous chemicals and does not generate any wastewater. After scandium oxide is recovered, red mud can be further processed into a stand-alone product or can be taken to a bauxite residue disposal area using the ultra-dry technique, which reduces the capital cost of disposal areas by around 30%.
The pilot unit produced the first batch of scandium oxide in 2016 and the material’s purity was over 99%. In 2016 and 2017 RUSAL then added a number of improvements to both the process and hardware parts, which had considerably increased the recovery rate, improved the quality of scandium concentrate and reduced the consumption of key chemicals used in the process.
After such improvements, currently, additional tests are being performed on the unit to confirm the continuous recovery technique.
This year RUSAL will invest around 50 million rubles to complete the pilot-scale tests, with the aim of confirming the sustainable cost improvement, and to develop a feasibility study to construct an industrial-scale unit at one of its existing operations. The product will then be used by RUSAL’s smelters to make aluminum-scandium alloys. The benefits of such developments are substantial as such small amounts of this material significantly improve the end-user performance of aluminum alloys. In addition, an in-house unit making this valuable material will reduce the company’s costs to procure scandium from other suppliers.
Victor Mann, Technical Director of UC RUSAL, commented: “Fundamentally, we are entering a new stage of our scandium project. Once the feasibility study is complete, we will know all the key parameters for the industrial-scale unit, including the location, capacity and timeframes. RUSAL’s entry into this new market will cover our internal demand for this strategic material and will also expand the range of our value-added products for our export markets”. (MetalInfo/Ukrainian metal)