In light of the rapid deployment of bottom blowing smelting in China over the last ten years, one has to wonder why it has taken the copper industry so long to adopt ultra-high oxygen enrichment via Savard-Lee type injectors. As early as 1976, Kellogg and Henderson suggested, in their landmark paper on energy usage in the copper industry, that ‘maximum use of oxygen enrichment of process air’ was one of seven ‘energy saving features’ for copper matte smelting and converting. Yet today, shrouded injection and high oxygen enrichment has not been implemented in copper bath smelting outside China and Vietnam. In this paper, the authors explore the reasons why bath smelting processes such as the Noranda Reactor and the Teniente Converter still operate around 40% oxygen enrichment, while the bottom blowing SKS/BBS process typically runs at 65 to 75% oxygen, with all three processes producing white metal. Are there fundamental metallurgical explanations for this striking difference beyond the long-standing skepticism towards high oxygen shrouded injection and its perceived high implementation cost?
Note that this white paper was written in collaboration with François Larouche and Enzo Palumbo. It was the subject of a presentation at COM 2015 – The Conference of Metallurgists.
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