Extraction of vanadium from athabasca tar sands fly ash
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The production of refinery grade oil from the Alberta tar sands deposits as currently practiced by Suncor (formally Great Canadian Oil Sands Ltd.—GCOS) generates a substantial amount of petroleum coke fly ash which contains appreciable amounts of valuable metals such as vanadium, nickel and titanium. Although the recovery of vanadium from petroleum ash is a well established commercial practice, it is shown in the present work that such processes are not suitable for recovery of vanadium from the GCOS fly ash. The fact that the GCOS fly ash behaves so differently when compared to other petroleum fly ash is attributed to its high silicon and aluminum contents which tie up the metal values in a silica-alumina matrix. Results of experiments carried out in this investigation indicate that such matrices can be broken down by application of a sodium chloride/water roast of the carbon-free fly ash. Based on results from a series of preliminary studies, a detailed investigation was undertaken in order to define optimum conditions for a vanadium extraction process. The process developed involves a high temperature (875 to 950 °C) roasting of the fly ash in the presence of sodium chloride and water vapor carried out in a rotary screw kiln, followed by dilute sodium hydroxide atmosphereic leaching (98 °C) to solublize about 85 pet of the vanadium originally present in the fly ash. It was found that the salt roasting operation, besides enhancing vanadium recovery, also inhibits silicon dissolution during the subsequent leaching step. The salt roasting treatment is found to improve vanadium recovery significantly when the fly ash is fully oxidized. This is easily achieved by burning off the carbon present in the “as received” fly ash under excess air. The basic leaching used in the new process selectively dissolves vanadium from the roasted ash, leaving nickel and titanium untouched.
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