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ABx Group achieves highest fluorine recoveries to date in testing


ABx Group’s bath pilot batch reactor in New South Wales. Credit: File

ABx Group’s (ASX: ABX) ambition to produce aluminium fluoride for the aluminium smelting industry have been given a shot in the arm with new testing showing 88 per cent fluorine recovery from aluminium smelter waste – the best result to date from its bath pilot batch reactor in New South Wales. 


The company says feed particle size and reactor configuration were optimised to achieve the milestone and those learnings will be incorporated into the design of its upcoming continuous pilot plant.


During the most recent batch of tests the feed particle size was reduced through the use of a ball mill and ultrasonic vibrating screen.  When that feed was put through the bath pilot batch reactor alone, ABx says it saw recoveries of up to 80 per cent fluorine.


The company says further manual processing of the product resulted in a maximum recovery of 88 per cent fluorine – highlighting the exciting potential for a second stage reactor to optimise recoveries.


Abx says that second stage is already part of its plan for the larger scale continuous pilot plant which is on the horizon.


The testing was run by chemical company ALCORE, of which ABx owns 83 per cent. Alcore was looking to maximise the recovery of fluorine in the form of hydrogen fluoride from ‘bath water’ ‑ which is a waste product from aluminium smelting.


The hydrogen fluorine can be further processed via existing chemical process to produce aluminium fluoride – a high-value chemical essential for aluminium smelting, electronics and solar technology that is currently fully imported.


As anticipated, the newly commissioned equipment which allowed bath feed particle size to be optimised has assisted in achieving a higher recovery of fluorine in the latest test runs. The next stage of development work is planned to involve using the existing specialised laboratory reactor to serve as the second process stage. It is anticipated that the combination of the bath pilot batch reactor and the specialised laboratory reactor can produce a higher fluorine recovery.
ABx Group managing director and chief executive officer Mark Cooksey

Following commissioning of the bath pilot batch reactor in October last year ALCORE has conducted several test runs, each involving approximately 10kg total of bath and sulfuric acid resulting in assays consistently indicating the tests achieved more than 70 per cent fluorine recovery.

 

Notably, the company says analysis of the latest results suggest that 90 per cent fluorine recoveries may be possible if a different reactor configuration is used – a design idea that has already been incorporated into the makeup of the company’s proposed continuous pilot plant.


The Asia Pacific fluorine market is the fastest growing fluorine market on the planet with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.07 per cent to 2030.


Traditionally, fluorine has been used in the electronics and semiconductor industries but has seen a surge in demand of late due to its use in optimising solar panel efficiency.


Fluorine is a very effective cleaner and is particularly useful in removing oxides from the silicon-based cells within solar photovoltaics allowing for optimum solar energy conversion.


With more test results due to make up a solid few months of news flow for ABx, punters may be watching this space to see just how much fluorine can be squeezed out of the smelter waste.


The ABx share price was up almost 27 per cent today to touch 7.1 cents on the news.


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