Investigating the effect of slag bath conditions on the existence of multiphase emulsion zones in PGM smelting furnaces using computation fluid dynamics
The presence of chrome in electric arc furnaces smelting platinum group metals (PGM's) has a number of potentially negative consequences. In cases where the slag chrome content is above the saturation limit the existence of near-stagnant conditions near the slag/matte interface increases the risk of chromite spinels settling and consolidating into a "mushy layer", a three-phase suspension of slag, chromite and matte. The hold-up of matte above the elevation of the slag/matte interface can lead to the attack of freeze linings and copper cooling elements potentially causing failures of the furnace lining and significant downtimes as well as major safety risks. This paper investigates the relationship between typical furnace operating parameters and the behavior of the slag bath with respect to the formation of the "mushy" layer at the slag/matte interface using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The extent of the potential "mushy" layer is seen to increase with decreasing electrode immersion and furnace power. Electrode immersion is, however, a considerably stronger driver is this regard. The CFD modelling results have aided in selecting appropriate furnace electrode immersion/power combinations intended to minimize "mushy" layer formation. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.