Major technological advances were made at IPEX Solutions during the Covid pandemic period in 2020 and 2021. The X GROUP Technologies (XGT) technology portfolio now includes flowsheets for base metal recovery from secondary resources such as petcoke cinder (petroleum coke), fly-ash residues from the petroleum industry, spent catalysts, as well as mineral tailings such as descloizite and carnotite. Viable ion exchange processes promising economic recovery of vanadium, nickel and other base metals were conceptualised and tested at bench scales for selected resources with further efforts to confirm techno-economic viability at commercial scales ongoing.
R&D efforts over the same period also strengthened the value proposition of XGT to primary producers through improved product purities and expanded product optionality. Our team at IPEX achieved better than 99.9% solution purities (metal oxide basis) at continuous pilot scales not easily achievable in primary producer circuits. IPEX also evaluated a new process whereby vanadium from calcine tailings and process effluents are recoverable as concentrated vanadium sulphate solution suitable for production of vanadium redox flow battery (VRB) electrolyte.
VRB remains a strong contender for long-duration storage in the alternative energy market hampered mainly by the price volatility of vanadium in the alloys market. The VRB electrolyte flowsheet of X GROUP aims to produce premium grade electrolyte at lower costs compared to conventional electrolyte produced from metal oxides. Our hydrometallurgical approach avoids costly precipitation and roasting route to V2O3 and V2O5 which novel capability could play an important role in accelerated deployment of competitively priced VRB.
In a previous newsflash we shared the schematic below illustrating integration of several IX flowsheet for recovering vanadium from alternative secondary resources. The possibility of recovering high purity VRB electrolyte at attractive costs from various secondary resources is attracting strong interest globally which is the focus of further R&D efforts.
To more reliably demonstrate the new vanadium sulphate capability to an important primary producer, IPEX moved its IX pilot plant to one of the tolling services sites of ENVEX located in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The R&D facility was relocated over December 2021 and recommissioned successfully early January 2022 with the aim to produce sufficient vanadium sulphate solution to fill our ESP5 IMERGY VRB. Additional improvements were implemented to further elevate vanadium tenors while maintaining optimal solution purities, which postponed the planned completion date for 2KL of vanadium sulphate solution from April to June 2022.
Preparing the IX pilot plant for relocation
IPEX on the move
Site establishment at the new IPEX location in Mpumalanga, South Africa