Sustainable supply of Nb, Sc and V from liquid waste from TiO2 plants
At present, no Sc is produced in the European Union (EU), and Nb and V are insufficiently produced from secondary resources. Forecasts announce significant higher demands of Sc (300 t/y), Nb and V until 2028 for the growing markets in alloy, steel, aeronautics, batteries, fuel cells, robotics, drones, heat exchange capacitators and 3D printing industries (Roskill, 2018). Recoverable resources of Sc, Nb and V are proven to be continuously available in waste streams from TiO2 pigment production in EU (1.5 million t/y via sulphate and chlorine processing).
ScaVanger will upscale an innovative hydrometallurgical technology for successive Sc, Nb, and V extraction from the TiO2 acid waste solutions. Thus, ScaVanger is setting the foundation for a sustainable supply for the EU of these critical metals (100 % Sc and about 2 % Nb and V demand), while contributing to the EU’s circular economy action plan (Figure 1).
ScaVanger technologies are integrated in the relevant hydrometallurgical production flowsheets of the TiO2 pigment industry to avoid waste transport and to share investments. The waste is cleaned from harmful elements (U, Th), which will be stocked according to EU regulations, before the extraction of the target elements. This newly installed plant will bring several valuable metal products to the market: Sc2O3, ScF3, Nb-concentrates, V-salts and V2O5 essentially for the alloy industries. ScaVanger will also prove that these products fulfill the market quality requirements given by our advisory board, particularly through aluminothermic treatment. The remaining waste is cleaned and can be used for by-product manufacturing (e. g. (Ca(NO3)2, Fe-Mn oxyhydroxides) for solar panels, the medical, electronic and environmental sectors, cement additives and agricultural applications. HCl and waters are reused in the plant.
From these new resources, the Sc supply can cover the growing market for SOFC and HEX, 3D printing, allowing the EU to become a leader in the manufacturing of these technologies. Furthermore, Sc (Nb, V) can be used for a more cost-efficient light alloys production in the aeronautic sectors, which would reduce aircrafts weight and decrease fuel consumption thus impacting positively the environmental and social footprint of this industry. Part of the potential customers are in our advisory board (KBM-Affilips, GfE, HYDROMETAL, Heraeus, Airbus), who will play a decisive role during the upscaling of the technologies and on the “Go-To-Market” approach ScaVanger will follow. The first production site will be the TRONOX plant (NL, 100 kt TiO2 production/y) with a capacity of 5 t of Sc, 170 t of V and 92 t of Nb. Real scale demonstration is scheduled for 2023 with industrial operation starting in 2026 (Figure 2). In the future, this technology can be easily further implemented in all chlorine-based TiO2 pigment production plants, both in the EU and worldwide. MEAB will construct the plant and a joint-venture, ScaVanger company, will buy and operate the plant, and produce the metal compounds for the EU market. In the EU alone, this would represent a production of more than 20 t/y of Sc, 700 t/y of V and 400 t/y of Nb, and would save more than 25 M€/y in waste neutralization costs. We expected about 30 M€/y from the metal compounds.
- Orano Mining, France (Coordinator)
- Catura Geoprojects, France
- ENALOS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, Greece
- MEAB Chemie Technik GmbH, Germany
- National Technical University of Athens NTUA, Greece
- Tronox Ltd., Netherlands