Improving the control structure of a high pressure leaching process

Knoblauch, Pieter Daniel (2015-03)

Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The main purpose of the base metal refinery (BMR) as operated by Lonmin at their Western Platinum Ltd BMR, is to remove base metals – such as copper and nickel – from a platinum group metal (PGM) containing matte. The leaching processes in which this is done pose several challenges to the control of the process. The most significant of these is the slow dynamics of the process, due to large process units, as well as the continuously changing composition of the first stage leach residue, which is not measured on-line. This is aggravated by the fact that the exact leaching kinetics (and therefore the effect of the disturbances) are not understood well fundamentally. The slow process dynamics mean that controllers cannot be tuned aggressively, resulting in slow control action. The large residence times and off-line composition analyses of major controlled variables also mean that the effects of operator set point changes are visible only the following day, often by a different shift of operators. Dorfling (2012) recently developed a fundamental dynamic model of the pressure leach process at Lonmin‟s BMR. This dynamic model incorporates 21 chemical reactions, as well as mass and energy balances, into a system of 217 differential equations. The model provides a simulation framework within which improved control strategies can be investigated. The primary aims of this study are twofold. The first is to validate the model for the purpose of the investigation and development of control structure improvements. This is done by comparing the model to plant data, and adapting it if necessary. The second aim to reconsider the current control philosophy to the extent that is allowed by the model‟s determined validity. The current plant control philosophy aims to maintain a PGM grade of 65%, while the copper in the solids products of the second and third leaching stages should be below 25% and 3.5% by mass, respectively. Two areas of particular concern in this process that have been raised by Lonmin are the control of the temperature of the first compartment and the addition of pure sulphuric acid to control the acid concentration in the second stage leach. Dynamic plant data were used to calibrate the model, which was migrated from its received MATLAB platform to Simulink, to assist with control development. Flow rates were imported from the data, with some data values adapted for this purpose, due to mass balance inconsistencies. The outputs from the calibrated model were compared with corresponding data values. The model was found to be suitable for the investigation and development of the control structures of pressure, temperatures and inventories (termed basic regulatory control) and the acid concentration and solids fraction in the preparation tanks (termed compositional regulatory control). It was, however, found to be inadequate for the investigation and development of supervisory control, since it does not provide accurate compositional results. The leaching of copper is especially under-predicted, with the predicted copper concentration in the second stage product being approximately 46% lower than data values. The basic and compositional regulatory control structures were investigated. For each of these a base case was developed which aimed to represent the relevant current control structure, assuming optimal tuning. The variable pairings for the basic regulatory control were reconsidered using a method proposed by Luyben and Luyben (1997), since this part of the process does not permit the generation of a relative gain array (RGA) for variable pairing. The resulting pairing corresponds with Lonmin‟s current practice. Considering the temperature control of compartment 1, it was found that the addition of feed-forward control to the feedback control of the level of the flash tank improves the temperature control. More specifically, during an evaluation where the temperature‟s set point is varied up to 1%, the IAE of the temperature of compartment 1 was decreased with 7.5% from the base case, without disturbing the flash tank. The addition of feed-forward control allows for more rapid control and more aggressive tuning of this temperature, removing the current limit on ratio between the flash recycle stream and the autoclave feed. The compositional control was investigated for the second stage leach only, due to insufficient flow rate and compositional information around the third stage preparation tank. Variable pairing showed that three additive streams are available for the preparation tanks of the second and third stage leach to control the acid concentration and solids fraction in those tanks. Focussing on the second stage, the aim was to determine whether the acid concentration in the flash tank can be successfully controlled without the addition of pure acid to the tank. With four streams available around the second stage preparation tank to control its mass/level, the acid concentration and solids fraction, three manipulated variables were derived from these streams. The resulting pairings were affirmed by an RGA. Control loops for the control of acid concentration and solids fraction in the flash tank were added as cascade controllers, using the preparation tank‟s control as secondary loops. The added compositional control was evaluated in two tests. The first of these entailed the adding of typical disturbances, being the flash recycle rate, the solids and water in the feed to the second stage preparation tank and the acid concentration in copper spent electrolyte. In the second test the control system was tested for tracking an acid concentration set point. It was found that the cascade structure controls the acid concentration in the flash tank less tightly than the base case (with an IAE that is 124% and 80.6% higher for the two tests), but that it decreases the variation of solids fraction (lowering the IAE with 40.8% with the first test) in the same tank and of the temperature in the first compartment (lowering the IAE with 73.6% in the second test). It is recommended that the relative effects of these three variables on leaching behaviour should be investigated with an improved model that is proven to accurately predict leaching reactions in the autoclave.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die hoofdoel van die basismetaal-raffinadery (BMR), soos dit bestuur word deur Lonmin by hulle Western Platinum Ltd BMR, is om basismetale – soos koper en nikkel – te verwyder uit 'n mat wat platinum groep metale (PGM) bevat. Die logingsprosesse waarin dit gedoen word hou talle uitdagings in vir die beheer van die proses. Die mees beduidende hiervan is die proses se stadige dinamika, wat veroorsaak word deur groot proseseenhede, sowel as die deurlopend veranderende samestelling van die eerste stadium residue (wat nie aanlyn gemeet word nie). Dit word vererger deur die feit dat die presiese logingskinetika (en daarom ook die effek van versteurings) nie fundamenteel goed verstaan word nie. Die stadige dinamika beteken dat die beheerders die aggressief verstel kan word nie, en dit lei tot stadige beheeraksies. Die groot verblyftye en aflyn samestellingsanalises van die belangrikste beheerde veranderlikes beteken dat die gevolge van 'n operateur se stelpunt veranderinge slegs die volgende dag sigbaar is – dikwels in die skof van 'n ander operateur. Dorfling (2012) het onlangs 'n fundamentele, dinamiese model van die drukloog proses by Lonmin se BMR ontwikkel. Hierdie dinamiese model inkorporeer 21 chemiese reaksies, sowel as massa- en energiebalanse, in ‟n stelsel van 217 differensiaalvergelykings. Die model bied 'n simulasie-raamwerk waarbinne verbeterde beheerstrategieë ondersoek kan word. Die hoofdoel van hierdie studie is tweeledig. Die eerste hiervan is om die model te valideer vir die ondersoek en ontwikkelling van beheerstruktuur verbeteringe. Dit is gedoen deur die model met aanlegdata te vergelyk en dit aan te pas, indien nodig. Die tweede doel is om die huidige beheerfilosofie te heroorweeg tot op 'n punt wat toegelaat word deur die bepaalde geldigheid van die model. Die huidige beheerfilosofie van die aanleg mik om 'n gehalte van 65% te handhaaf, terwyl die koper in die vastestof produk van die tweede en derde logingsstadia onderskeidelik onder 25% en 3.5% op 'n massa basis moet wees. Twee probleem-areas, soos ge-opper deur Lonmin, is die beheer van die temperatuur in die eerste kompartement en die byvoeging van suiwer swaelsuur om die suurkonsentrasie van die tweede stadium te beheer. Dinamiese aanlegdata is gebruik om die model te kalibreer. Hierdie model is van die oorspronklike MATLAB platform na Simulink gemigreer, ten einde beheerontwikkelling te vergemaklik. Vloeitempo's is van die data af ingevoer na die model toe, met sekere data waardes wat aangepas is vanweë massabalans inkonsekwenthede. Die uitsette van die gekalibreerde model is met die ooreenstemmende data waardes vergelyk. Daar is bevind dat die model geskik is vir die ondersoek en ontwikkelling van die beheer van druk, temperature en tenks (basiese reguleringsbeheer), sowel as die beheer van suurkonsentrasies en vastestoffraksies in die bereidingstenks (reguleringsbeheer van die samestelling). Daar is egter bevind dat die model nie geskik is vir die ondersoek en ontwikkelling van toesigbeheer nie, aangesien dit nie akkurate samestellingsresultate genereer nie. Die voorspelde loging van koper is veral te laag, met die model wat koperkonsentrasies vir die tweede stadium voorspel wat ongeveer 46% laer is as ooreenstemmende data waardes. Die basiese en samestelling reguleringsbeheer strukture is ondersoek. Vir elkeen is ‟n basisgeval ontwikkel wat poog om die huidige beheerstruktuur te verteenwoordig, met optimale verstellings aanvaar. Die paring van veranderlikes vir die basiese reguleringsbeheer is heroorweeg met deur middel van ‟n metode wat deur Luyben en Luyben (1997) voorgestel is, aangesien hierdie deel van die proses nie die opstel van ‟n relatiewe winsmatriks (RWM) vir die paring toelaat nie. Die uiteindelike paring stem ooreen met Lonmin se huidige praktyk. Met die heroorweging van die temperatuurbeheer van kompartement 1 is daar bevind that die byvoeging van vooruitvoer beheer by die terugvoerbeheer van die flitstenk die temperatuurbeheer verbeter. Meer spesifiek het die IAE van hierdie temperatuur met 7.5% verlaag van die basisgeval af nadat die temperatuur se stelpunt tot met 1% gevariëer is – sonder om die flitstenk te versteur. Die byvoeging van vooruitvoer beheer laat vinniger beheer en meer aggressiewe verstellings van die temperatuur toe, aangesien die huidige beperking op die verhouding tussen die flitsstroom en die outoklaaf voer verwyder word. Die samestellingsbeheer is slegs ondersoek in die geval van die tweede loogstadium as gevolg van onvoldoende vloeitempo- en samestellingsinligting om die bereidingstenk van die derde stadium. Die paring van veranderlikes het gewys dat drie voerstrome onderskeidelik beskikbaar is vir beide die bereidingstenks van die tweede en derde stadia, om die suurkonsenstrasies en vastestoffraksies in hierdie tenks te beheer. Met die fokus op die tweede stadium was die doel om te bepaal of die suurkonsentrasie in die flitstenk suksesvol beheer kan word sonder dat suiwer suur by hierdie tenk gevoeg word. Met vier strome beskikbaar rondom die bereidingstenk van die tweede stadium om die massa/vlak, die suurkonsentrasie en die vastestoffraksie te beheer, is drie manipuleerde veranderlikes vanuit hierdie strome afgelei. Die uiteindelike paring is bevestig deur 'n RWM. Beheerlusse is ingevoeg vir die beheer van die suurkonsentrasie en vastestoffraksie in die flitstenk, met die bereidingstenk se beheer wat dien as sekondêre lusse in kaskadebeheer. Die kaskadebeheer is geëvalueer in twee toetse. Die eerste hiervan behels die invoer van tipiese versteurings, soos die vloeitempo van die flitsstroom, die vastestof en water in die voer na die tweede stadium se bereidingstenk en die suurkonsentrasie in die gebruikte elektroliet. In die tweede toets is die vermoë van die beheerstelsel om 'n suurkonsentrasie stelpunt te volg getoets. Daar is bevind dat die kaskadestruktuur die suurkonsentrasie minder nougeset beheer as die basisgeval (met 'n IAE wat 124% en 80.6% hoër is vir die twee toetse), maar dat dit die variasie in die vastestoffraksie in dieselfde tenk (40.8% vermindering van die IAE in die eerste toets) en in die temperatuur van die eerste kompartement (73.6% vermindering van die IAE in die tweede toets) beduidend verminder. Daar word aanbeveel dat die relatiewe effekte van hierdie drie veranderlikes op logingsoptrede ondersoek moet word, met die gebruik van 'n model wat logingsreaksies in die outoklaaf akkuraat voorspel.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96799
This item appears in the following collections: