Tag Archives: flowsheet

Metso Outotec to ‘enrich’ mining, metallurgy decision making with Geminex digital twin

The value a ‘true’ digital twin could provide the mineral processing and metallurgical industries has been spoken of continuously throughout the last few years, and Metso Outotec believes it is on the cusp of realising such value with its “science-based” Metso Outotec Geminex™ digital twin.

Designed to manage variability and optimise resources, the solution simulates and optimises seamless sustainable operations in minerals, pyro- and hydro-metallurgical processes by combining operational data from both internal and external data sources, the company says.

For simulation and production, Geminex uses the renowned HSC process models that already have over 20,000 users worldwide. These models – which combine versatile chemical, thermodynamic and mineral processing features – have been successfully implemented in hundreds of minerals and metals processing flowsheet development cases, with the same models used in plant run-time optimisation, according to Metso Outotec.

There’s more to this digital twin than the HSC process models alone, according to Veli-Matti Järvinen, Vice President, Automation at Metso Outotec.

Geminex uses “first-principle” dynamic process and equipment models for calibrated performance to help provide an ‘accurate’ digital twin for existing operations, he says.

“Here, both quality and availability of key process data are important,” he told IM, mentioning that normally available instrument and laboratory data tend to be sufficient inputs for generating the digital twin’s simulations.

And Geminex, through a series of “soft sensors”, also produces a vast amount of data that cannot be measured directly yet is leveraged through the dynamic process models, according to Järvinen.

“These soft sensors, as they are called, give an insight to the process that was not available before,” he explained, with examples including element or mineral content by particle size fractions in the process streams. This goes one step further than the feedback from, for instance, Metso Outotec’s Courier® on-stream analysers, which provide real-time elemental analysis measurements.

This makes the digital twin that much more powerful than existing solutions on the market, as it can introduce a new dataset to the equation.

And, as with all ‘true’ digital twins, the models are adapted to live data and continuously improved by machine-learning algorithms, Järvinen said.

“An example of this is model adaptation for variable ore types with different processing performance to help manage variability,” he said. “The resulting metallurgical digital twin is accurate, and its behaviour reflects the physical process.”

All this means Geminex can simulate and test alternative operational scenarios and parameters based on accurate process models and real data, providing the sort of decision-making tools the industry has been after for decades.

While the resource sustainability angle is key here – reinforced by the fact Metso Outotec has labelled Geminex as a Planet Positive product: a collection of the company’s most environmentally efficient technologies – the digital twin’s ability to use resources in an optimal way while considering both impacts and constraints is only a fraction of the industries’ value case.

The ability to incorporate new equipment and tools in a ‘live’ flowsheet that considers the specific characteristics of the orebody at hand and the conditions in which each processing stage receives material is very powerful. One can see it easily aiding the incorporation of new technology in the plant, with the simulations able to provide operators with the confidence to leverage innovations.

Järvinen says the digital twin’s use will also enable the company to start process flowsheet design that much earlier in the mine exploration/development stage.

“As soon as the customer has metallurgical data, the process can be designed and optimised to match the required economic optimum,” he said.

Metso Outotec’s strong experience in developing metallurgical processes, as well as incorporation of the process models of Metso Outotec’s HSC simulation package for minerals processing, pyro- and hydro-metallurgical processes, enables this early analysis.

“These models provide great value in the exploratory phase by enabling scenario analysis, which will help find alternatives for process flowsheets, equipment selection and even blending of different types of ore, if needed,” Järvinen said.

At the same time, Järvinen expects the Geminex digital twin to reduce the plant ramp-up time and “time to market” in the later mining project stages as operators will be that much better prepared for the likes of cold and hot commissioning.

“Great value and impact towards a positive change can be achieved in the run-time of the mining operation and the operating strategy by enriching decisions with the help of Geminex,” he said.

Geminex may be Metso Outotec’s own proprietary digital twin, but, thanks to an extensive back catalogue of process plant modelling references, it is able to run dynamic simulations that incorporate competitor equipment, according to Järvinen.

Similarly, while the company has sustainability and Planet Positive aims for Geminex, the equipment to feature in simulations does not have to be classified as Planet Positive, Järvinen says.

“The processes or assets do not need to be Planet Positive equipment, but those can become such with proper control and optimisation,” he said. “With Metso Outotec Geminex, the full value chain of mineral processing plants and hydro- and pyro-metallurgical plants are considered for Planet Positive production.”

Able to be implemented in modules, Geminex can be deployed piece by piece as part of customers’ digital transformation and continuous improvement projects, he added, opening the possibilities for Metso Outotec to leverage its capabilities beyond full flowsheet design.

In the development phase of Geminex, Metso Outotec carried out several successful pilots with universities and, now commercially available, the company has three ongoing projects in the delivery/commissioning phase with early adopters.

“These projects are already providing good results,” Järvinen said.

“With the good and growing process expertise, we are well prepared to support numerous customers with various optimisation targets in mind.”

Wood Group, Nagrom devise high-grade rare earth flowsheet for Pensana’s Longonjo

Pensana Rare Earths says it has successfully produced a neodymium- and praseodymium-rich mixed rare earth carbonate (MREC) from test work currently underway on mineralisation from its Longonjo rare earth project, in Angola.

Industry experts Wood Group and Nagrom, based on test work performed at metallurgical laboratories in Perth, Western Australia, have successfully developed a flowsheet to produce a particularly high-grade MREC, with NdPr comprising 33.5% of the total rare earths content, Pensana said.

This MREC is a much higher-purity and higher-value product and has a much broader market and range of applications than the concentrate product contemplated in Pensana’s prefeasibility study, according to the company. Also, based on information provided by Wood and Nagrom, the specifications of Longonjo’s MREC compare favourably with the main products currently being produced and sold mainly in China.

In the meantime, the pilot plant and metallurgical test work at Longonjo are ongoing with a view to finalising the preferred process route and to providing data for engineering and production cost estimations for the bankable feasibility study (BFS).

A comprehensive update on the BFS will be reported towards the end of the month, with the company explaining that two of the circuits will be required to run for longer to bring the test work results up to the required reporting standards for the study.

“A key feature that the study will report is the potential for the project to be brought online as the first major rare earth mine in over a decade which can also offer a sustainable supply of mixed rare earth carbonate at a time when there is growing concern around the provenance of the rare earth supply chain,” the company said.

Pensana Chief Executive Officer, Tim George, said: “This is an important milestone for the project as it confirms the potential to produce a marketable higher value NdPr rich mixed rare earth carbonate. The market for this carbonate is substantially larger than that of a concentrate and is potentially not limited to China.

“We are now in a position to commence discussions with potential offtake parties in Japan, Korea and Europe in addition to the wide range of potential customers in China.

“Importantly the combination of this value-adding step, with the excellent infrastructure, not least the available hydro-electric power supply, will enable us to develop Longonjo as one of the world’s most sustainable rare earth suppliers on the critical magnet metal supply chain.”

Pensana recently issued a resource upgrade for Longonjo, which outlined measured, indicated and inferred resources of 313 Mt at 1.43% rare earth oxides, including 0.32% NdPr for 4.47 Mt of REO including 990,000 t of NdPr.