The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa is developing a process to produce titanium tetrachloride from a low-grade material such as ilmenite. Titanium tetrachloride can then be used as feed material for titanium metal or pigment-grade titanium dioxide production. Titanium tetrachloride is commercially produced by chlorinating synthetic rutile (<92% TiO2) or titanium dioxide slag (<85% TiO2) at ~900 ˚C. A drawback of chlorination at this temperature is that any constituents other than TiO2 will end up as hazardous waste material. A characteristic step in the CSIR’s proposed process is to nitride titanium dioxide contained in the feed material before it is sent for chlorination. The chlorination of the resulting titanium nitride is achieved at a much lower temperature (~200 ˚C) than that of the existing titanium dioxide chlorination reaction. An added advantage of the low-temperature chlorination reaction is that chlorine is selective mostly towards titanium nitride and metallic iron, which means that any other constituents present are not likely to react with the chlorine. The result is reduced chlorine consumption and less hazardous waste produced. The nitrided ilmenite must, however, be upgraded by removing all iron before it can be sent for chlorination. Commercial ilmenite upgrading processes, called synthetic rutile production, also require the removal of iron and other transition metals before chlorination. A literature review of existing ilmenite upgrading processes revealed four possible process options that could remove iron from nitrided ilmenite. Two of these process options, the Becher and Austpac ERMS SR processes, are proven process routes. The other two are novel ideas – one to passivate iron contained in the nitrided ilmenite against chlorination and the other to use ammonium chloride (as used in the Becher process) as a stoichiometric reactant to produce a ferrous chloride solution. A preliminary experimental evaluation of these process options indicated that the Austpac ERMS SR process is the most viable option for removing iron from nitrided ilmenite. The Austpac ERMS SR process was therefore selected as a template for further process development. A detailed Austpac ERMS SR process review found that two process units in the Austpac ERMS SR process could be used in a process that separates iron from nitrided ilmenite. These are the Enhanced Acid Regeneration System and the Direct Reduced Iron process units. The review also concluded that another leach unit would have to be developed. It was therefore necessary to further investigate the dissolution of nitrided ilmenite in hydrochloric acid. A detailed experimental evaluation of nitrided ilmenite dissolution in hydrochloric acid found that hydrochloric acid could be used as the lixiviant to selectively remove iron from nitrided ilmenite. The dissolution of metallic iron in 90 ˚C hydrochloric acid reached levels of at least 96% after only 60 minutes. An average “combined resistance” rate law was found that could be used to describe this dissolution reaction. The observed activation energy and Arrhenius pre-exponential factor were found to be equal to 9.45 kJ.mol-1 and 30.8 s-1 respectively. The Austpac ERMS SR process review and experimental results described above were then combined and used to propose a process that could be employed to remove iron from nitrided ilmenite. The proposed process was modelled using the Flowsheet Simulation module in HSC Chemistry 7.0
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2011.