Alternative reducing agents in metallurgical processes : Experimental study of thermal characterization of shredder residue material

Sammanfattning: Coal used in metallurgical processes can participate in reduction reactions to produce metals and alloys from oxides. Base metals production leads to generation of slag, which contains valuable metals that can be recovered and recycled. There are several options to treat the slag, depending on the metal content in the slag. One is slag fuming, which is a well-established process that is traditionally used to vaporize zinc from zinc containing slags, mainly lead blast furnace slag, but is applied in a few plants for copper smelting slags. In this process reduction is achieved using pulverized coal, lump coal or natural gas. Conventionally pulverized coal injected to the furnace is utilized both to participate in reduction reactions and also to supply heat. On the other hand, the amount of possible alternative reducing agents such as residue plastic material is increasing steadily and the issue of sustainable disposal management of these materials has arisen. As carbon and hydrogen are major constituents of the residue plastic-containing materials, they have the potential to be an auxiliary source of reducing agents, to partially replace conventional sources such as coal. Shredder Residue Material (SRM) is a plastic-containing residue material after separation of main metals. Utilization of SRM as an alternative reducing agent, would lead to not only decreased dependency on primary sources such as coal but also to an increase in the efficiency of utilization of secondary sources. This calls for systematic scientific investigations, wherein these secondary sources are compared with primary sources with respect to e.g., devolatilization characteristics, gasification characteristics and reactivity. As a first step, devolatilization characteristics of SRM are compared with those of coal using thermogravimetric analysis. To study the reduction potential of the evolved materials, composition of evolved off-gas was continuously monitored using quadrupole mass spectroscopy. To gain a better understanding of possible interaction of plastics in a mixture, the devolatilization mechanisms and the volatile composition of three common plastics; polyethylene, polyurethane and polyvinylchloride and their mixture have been studied. Furthermore, gasification characteristics and reactivity of char produced from SRM is compared with coal char. The effect of devolatilization heating rate on gasification rate of char was investigated. Proximate analysis has shown that SRM mainly decomposes by release of volatiles, while coal shows high fixed carbon content, which is reported to contribute to reduction reactions. The composition of volatiles shows H2, CO and hydrocarbons which are known to have reduction potential. Therefore, it is essential that SRM be used in a process that could utilize the evolved volatiles for reduction. The results confirm the interaction between the plastics within the binary and ternary mixtures, which suggests that similar phenomenon may occur during devolatilization of SRM. Although the char produced from SRM contains lower amounts of fixed carbon compared to coal char, it has a porous structure and high surface area, which makes it highly reactive during gasification experiments. In addition to physiochemical properties, the catalytic effect of ash content of SRM char contributes to its higher reactivity and lower activation energy value compared to coal char. Moreover, the gasification reactivity of char produced at fast devolatilization heating rate was highest, due to less crystalline structure of produced char.