Solar thermal for mineral processing
It is a fact that in a country like Australia, dominated by the primary production of commodities such as iron ore, copper and alumina, the industrial processes that produce these for export account for around half of our energy consumption.
Manufacturing and mining in Australia accounts for half of Australia’s natural gas use, being converted to heat, fuels and power. This makes us vulnerable to increases in price for both gas and electricity.
The University of Adelaide is addressing the challenge of integrating low carbon energy into minerals processing, particularly in processes such as the thermal calcining of limestone, magnesia and alumina. We are working on processes for calcination using concentrated solar thermal energy, with strong potential to compete with natural gas.
Direct solar heat for mineral processing can also be used for steam production for ore concentration, hot air for drying, and solar thermal for crushing and grinding rocks, a massive energy demand in Australia and globally.
Solar thermal can also be used to produce chemicals for industrial processes, such as producing sulphuric acid for use in concentrate leach and tails leach for copper. Other opportunities include oxygen for smelting and refining and hydrogen for metallurgy, heat, power and mobility.