Modelling the thermal, electrical and flow profiles in a 6-in-line matte melting furnace

Snyders, Cornelius Albert (2008-12)

Thesis (MScEng (Process Engineering))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


The furnace at Polokwane is designed to treat high chromium containing concentrates which requires higher smelting temperatures to prevent or limit the undesirable precipitation of chromium spinels. The furnace has therefore been designed to allow for deep electrode immersion with copper coolers around the furnace to permit the operation with the resulting higher heat fluxes. Deep electrode immersion has been noted to result in dangerously high matte temperatures. Matte temperatures however can be influenced by a number of furnace factors which emphasize the need to understand the energy distribution inside the furnace. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has therefore been identified to analyze the flow and heat profiles inside the furnace. The commercial CFD software code Fluent is used for the simulations. Attention has been given only to a slice of the six-in-line submerged arc furnace containing two electrodes or one pair while focusing on the current density profiles, slag and matte flow profiles and temperature distribution throughout the bath to ensure the model reflects reality. Boundary conditions were chosen and calculated from actual plant data and material specifications were derived from previous studies on slag and matte. Three dimensional results for the current, voltage and energy distributions have been developed. These results compare very well with the profiles developed by Sheng, Irons and Tisdale in their CFD modelling of a six-in-line furnace. It was found the current flow mainly takes place through the matte, even with an electrode depth of only 20% immersion in the slag, but the voltage drop and energy distribution still only take place in the slag. Temperature profiles through-out the entire modelling domain were established. The vertical temperature profile similar to Sheng et al. 1998b was obtained which shows a specifically good comparison to the measured temperature data from the Falconbridge operated six-in-line furnace. The temperature in the matte and the slag was found to be uniform, especially in the vertical direction. It has been found that similar results with Sheng et al. (1998b) are obtained for the slag and matte velocity vectors. Different results are, however, obtained with different boundary conditions for the slag/matte interface and matte region; these results are still under investigation to obtain an explanation for this behaviour. The impact of the bubble formation on the slag flow was investigated and found to be a significant contributor to the flow. With the bubble formation, it is shown that possible ‘dead zones’ in the flow with a distinctive V-shape can develop at the sidewalls of the furnace with the V pointing towards the centre of the electrode. This behaviour can have a significant impact on the point of feed to the furnace and indirectly affect the feed rate as well as the settling of the slag and matte. These results are not validated though. Different electrode immersions were modelled with a constant electrical current input to the different models and it was found that the electrode immersion depth greatly affects the stirring of the slag in the immediate vicinity of the electrode, but temperature (which determines the natural buoyancy) has a bigger influence on the stirring of the slag towards the middle and sidewall of the slag bath. The sensitivity of the model to a different electrode tip shape with current flow concentrated at the tip of the electrode was also modelled and it was found that the electrode shape and electrical current boundary conditions are very important factors which greatly affect the voltage, current density and temperature profiles through the matte and the slag. A detailed investigation to determine the electrode tip shape at different immersions, as well as the boundary conditions of the current density on the tip of the electrode is necessary as it was proven that the model is quite sensitive to these conditions. Several recommendations arose from this modelling work carried out in this investigation. Time constraints, however, did not allow for the additional work to be carried out and although valuable results were obtained, it is deemed to be a necessity if a more in-depth understanding of furnace behaviour is to be obtained. Future work will include the validation of the results, understanding the liquid matte model, investigating the MHD effects and modelling different furnace operating conditions.

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