ABx state-of-the-art reactor ‘performing as designed’

ABx Group’s (ASX:ABX) 83% owned subsidiary ALCORE has completed 3 test runs under standard process conditions since commissioning the ‘state-of-the-art’ bath pilot batch reactor.

Managing Director and CEO Dr Mark Cooksey says since conducting first runs with a significantly larger batch reactor in November, ABx demonstrated it can run the reactor safely under standard process conditions.

The $16.72 market capitalisation company also determined it can produce hydrogen fluorine.

“Now we are seeing evidence that it is capable of producing the all-important higher fluorine yield that underpins commercial production.”

Of the 3, the most recent run produced several kilograms of metal sulfate powder that appears to have had more than 90% of the fluorine removed, as targeted.

Several powder samples from the runs have been sent to an external laboratory to measure the fluorine content and confirm the fluorine yield. Results from these independent assessments are anticipated in January 2024.

The reactor is operating at the ALCORE Technology Centre on the New South Wales Central Coast and has been designed for the recovery of fluorine from ‘excess bath’ (an aluminium smelter waste) to produce hydrogen fluoride.

At commercial scale, a proportion of the hydrogen fluoride will be further processed via an existing commercial process to aluminium fluoride – a high-value chemical essential for aluminium smelting that is currently fully imported.

The new reactor is some 10 times larger than ABx’s previous laboratory-scale reactor. Each run has involved about 10kg total of bath and sulfuric acid.

Following 2 runs and minor equipment modifications, Cooksey says the reactor is now performing as designed. In particular, the reactor is achieving enhanced process mixing.

Hydrogen fluoride gas has been produced throughout each of the test runs. He says this gives confidence that the enhanced process mixing is delivering higher fluorine yield in a single pass, which is a highly significant milestone for the ongoing scale-up of the ALCORE process.

The CEO adds: “The scale-up of this technology is all about process and equipment validation at increasing scales of operation, increasingly providing us with certainty that our world-first process can be efficiently and effectively scaled up to commercial operation.

Greater certainty of our progress will be provided in January with the receipt of assay results. I am exceptionally pleased with the acceleration of ALCORE’s activities and look forward to further runs of the batch reactor, as every run offers further insights into the design for the next critical stage of development – the continuous pilot plant.”

ABx is a uniquely positioned, high-tech Australian company delivering materials for a cleaner future. The current areas of focus are creation of an ionic adsorption clay rare earth project in northern Tasmania and establishment of a plant to produce hydrogen fluoride and aluminium fluoride from recycled industrial waste.

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Editor-in-Chief Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Orlando has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.