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ChemX Materials optimises HPA flowsheet, adds product pathways

Updated: Mar 27

ChemX Materials’ HPA micro-plant in Western Australia. Credit: File.

ChemX Materials has advanced its high-purity alumina (HPA) micro-plant flowsheet as it prepares to scale up to pilot-plant production.

The company has now also identified intermediate HPA product pathways and says investment in high-precision analytical equipment and dedicated human resources has resulted in increased operational performance for its HPA micro-plant. It will now feed the enhancements directly into its HPA pilot-plant flowsheet design as it prepares to scale up the metallurgical processes with increased confidence.

The Micro-plant has proven extremely effective in delivering the process data required to improve the design and optimise the operation of the Pilot-plant ahead of time. This has resulted in a significant reduction in capital costs and reagent requirements. Importantly, the resized pilot-plant will still meet expected customer demand in producing sufficient product to complete qualification with battery separator makers, synthetic sapphire growers and other burgeoning markets. ChemX Materials chief executive officer Peter Lee

The HPA micro-plant, located in O’Connor in Western Australia, uses the company’s proprietary process called “HiPurA”, which converts aluminous chemical feedstocks through selective refining to HPA. The HiPurA technology is currently the subject of an international patent application, lodged by the company in July last year.

HPA is sold in either powder or pellet form and is graded upon its purity, with a 99.99 per cent pure product classed as “4N”, referring to the four nines, and 5N HPA being 99.999 per cent pure aluminium oxide.

ChemX says ongoing marketing activities and industry discussions has led to the identification of new intermediate product pathways that offer potential volume increases, in addition to the markets for 4N and 5N HPA. The company is aiming to achieve the delivery of 4N and potentially 5N HPA products for the electric vehicle battery separator and synthetic sapphire markets, LEDs, semi-conductors and optical lenses.

The inclusion of flowsheet enhancements and management’s investigation into alternative product pathways will add several weeks to the pilot-plant construction timeframe, but should end in one plant being capable of producing alternative intermediate products.

ChemX says one of its next steps will be the modification of the micro-plant to take feedstock from the pilot-plant, as the company pushes towards the production of premium products such as 5N HPA.

Management says the company is also posturing to service the electric vehicle manufacturing space with its high-purity manganese sulphate monohydrate (HPMSM). The company has proven that beneficiation can produce 99.7 per cent pure manganese sulphate feedstock for HPMSM manufacture from ore within the shallow manganese deposit at its Jamieson Tank project on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.

It is investigating the use of Jamieson Tank manganese ore as a feedstock for a HPMSM production facility to be located in the SA city of Whyalla, which boasts an abundance of renewable energy in the region within a tier-one sovereign jurisdiction, offering potential customers superior ESG credentials.

In parallel with the SA production option, the company last year secured a non-binding memorandum of understanding with United States-based C4V – a leader in battery technology involved in some of the world’s biggest gigafactory developments – to progress ChemX’s high-purity manganese project and work towards HPM offtake agreements following the qualification process.

HPA has a growing demand within the lithium-ion battery sector, where the product is used as a coating on the separator sheets between the cathode and anode. It is also used in the manufacture of synthetic sapphire – a transparent, high-strength material that is used in a variety of applications such as LED lights, semi-conductor wafers and premium watch faces.

Smaller markets exist around artificial gemstones and special space, aeronautical and medical applications.

Global demand for 4N HPA, specifically, is estimated to increase by 19.1 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to 90,000 tonnes per year by 2028.

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