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Metso Outotec and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have signed a global exclusive cooperation agreement on the delivery of SwirlFlow agitation technology for the bauxite and alumina sector outside of China.

The combination of the companies’ leading expertise in their respective fields will allow the parties to create the strongest offering to the market for the use of the technology in refinery precipitation tanks.

Metso Outotec Director of Light Metals Alessio Scarsella said sustainability was a top priority for the company.

“In addition to our own investments to develop technology for sustainable alumina processing, we are pleased to be able to announce our cooperation with CSIRO. This will allow us to meet our customers’ growing demand such as lower capital installation, reduced spare parts costs and increase in precipitation tank availability,” he said.

CSIRO Research Program Director for Processing, Andrew Jenkin, said the SwirlFlow agitation technology had been pioneered at a tier one refinery precipitation tanks, leading to significantly reduced maintenance costs and improved operational time between descaling events.

Swirlflow creates a tornado-like swirling action to deliver superior mixing and dispersion of solids in thick slurries.

The solution uses a motor, gearbox and a specially-designed radial impeller with a short shaft near the top of the tank, and simple and inexpensive to retrofit to existing tanks.

The system improves agitator reliability, resulting in reduced maintenance and shutdowns. Due to higher and more uniform wall veolcities, the scale formation rate is also reduced.

The capital cost of Swirlflow is around 50 per cent less than traditional technologies and likewise the maintenance costs are also much lower, in part due to the lower wear rates than for the impellers used in traditional systems.

Swirlflow can be applied throughout the minerals industry for a wide variety of mixing, including the gold and zinc industries.

The technique has been successfully used for 25 years by Queensland Alumina at its Gladstone refinery, with 21 large tanks currently operating with the technology.

Energy Resources of Australia retrofitted a leach tank with Swirlflow at its Ranger uranium mine operation. Removal of baffles improved tank structural integrity by reducing rubber linking damage risks and tank lining costs.