IIT Kharagpur and Vedanta Aluminium have developed a process to significantly reduce the generation of bauxite residue, commonly known as red mud, in the alumina refining process. The patented process reduces bauxite residue by a remarkable 30 per cent by eliminating iron values while simultaneously recovering a higher alumina yield, reducing the total organic content of bauxite during the alumina refining. The process significantly enhances resource efficiency and curbs energy consumption during refining. The project was led by the Research and Development Department of Vedanta, the country’s leading aluminium producer, in collaboration with the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Kharagpur.
Red Mud is produced as a result of the bauxite-to-alumina processing through the Bayer process. The production of every 1 tonne of aluminium results in the generation of 3.3 tonnes of red mud, the sustainable management of which has been a long-standing challenge for the industry. Vedanta Aluminium is actively engaged in various initiatives aimed at minimizing bauxite residue, while also exploring avenues to extract value from the same. The company’s newly developed process represents a significant and revolutionary advancement in tackling the challenges associated with the utilization of red mud in the future. The pioneering development has undergone successful validation in laboratory settings and has completed the patent process. Currently, the company is forced to establish a pilot plant to implement and access the process, along with determining the potential advantages.
“The reduction of bauxite residue has been one of the key challenges for the aluminium industry, requiring significant technological advancements. The process, developed through the collaborative efforts, will not only significantly improve bauxite residue management but also contribute to reducing the carbon footprint in the process,” said Prof. Chenna Rao Borra, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering of IIT Kharagpur.
Bauxite is the primary ore for aluminium, and it undergoes an intermediate refining stage, known as the Bayer process, to produce alumina which is then subjected to electrolysis to produce aluminium. This refining process generates bauxite residue as a by-product. To produce 1 kg of aluminium, it requires 2 kg of alumina, which consumes 6 kg of bauxite, leaving behind 4 kg of bauxite residue. Managing this voluminous by-product sustainably has been a long-standing industry challenge.
“We look forward to implementing our groundbreaking process in bauxite residue management in our refinery operations. This is a significant milestone that will offer a pathway to enhanced resource efficiency and energy conservation and contribute towards reshaping the global aluminium industry,” said Amit Chatterjee, Chief Research and Development Officer, Aluminium Business, Vedanta Ltd.
Vendanta Aluminium, the largest aluminium producer in India, has announced developing process to reduce generation of bauxite residue, commonly known as red mud by a remarkable 30%by eliminating iron values while simultaneously recovering higher alumina yield from bauxite during the alumina refining. The process significantly enhances resources efficiency and curbs energy consumption during refining. The research project was led by the company’s Research & Development (R&D) department in collaboration with the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Kharagpur with support of a financial grant from Lanjigarh. Odisha Unit, home to Vedanta’s world-class alumina refinery. The cutting-edge technology will not only enhance the operational excellence of the company, but will also have a sustainable impact on the global aluminium industry.
Inputs by: Prof. Chenna Rao Borra, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Kharagpur
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