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Virtual simulation of processing technology and calciners

According to Soto Consulting Engineers, advanced analysis is a double-barrelled assurance and safeguard for all parties.
This genuine value proposition, which uses computational analysis in the digital environment to speed up the design process, provides a “virtual guarantee” that what is designed will actually perform as intended when constructed.

This can take a considerable amount of pressure off engineering, procurement and construction management companies (EPCMs), which may be expected to hold liability for any failure of equipment or materials provided by technology and material suppliers.

“Calciners are just one of the process technologies for which Soto has been able to provide a true value proposition… to save our client from wasting much of its capital,” Soto managing director Frank Soto said.

Calcination is a thermal treatment method applied to ores and other solid materials to bring about thermal decomposition, phase transition or the elimination of a volatile fraction. Calciners are machines that use a high temperature furnace and a series of cyclones to process material into finer particle sizes with uniform quality using calcination.

Soto says calciners – particularly the issues that can arise from the thermal ceramics lining the interior of a calciner vessel – can be challenging for EPCMs. {{image2-A:R-w:220}}

“Thermal ceramic providers are expected to give a warranty on their product but because the EPCMs overseeing the project aren’t ceramics experts there is an obvious call for a third party that is knowledgeable to study the design, all its tolerances and limitations, and prove that it can either work or where failures can be anticipated,” he said.

“So advanced analysis is valuable for calciner design in that [in addition to providing] a level of assurance that it will achieve its projected duty cycles etc, it also significantly speeds up the design, planning and construction process.”

In recent years six calciners have been built in Australia, and Soto has verified the performance parameters of three of these.

While the three verified by Soto worked to specification requirements from the start, the others experienced significant delays and ongoing operational issues. They also failed to achieve the plant’s rated capacity within the required time.

Soto described his highly specialised business as reactive, responsive and attentive to project and client needs, with all work completed in-house.

“This is key to our value proposition,” he said. “Nothing is outsourced, so there is no risk of any sort of compromise where the analysis may be exposed to different standards of engineering, or where lesser levels of compliance checking may come into play.”

Soto’s ability to conduct verification on calciner engineering within several weeks is also a value-add, as government-funded organisations and academia are not recognised for operating to tight project schedules.

The Illawarra-based consultancy has forged close working relationships in the resource and manufacturing supply chain – including many Australian blue-chip companies – to solve difficult challenges and develop solutions for a range of processing technology.

To date it has successfully simulated and analysed process technology associated with calciners, blast furnaces, retorts, roasters and fluidised bed reactors.

The work has included computational fluid dynamics (CFD), finite element analysis (FEA) and discrete element modelling (DEM), plus a combination of all three using innovative techniques and methods developed by the Soto team.

For example, the blast furnace process could be modelled in a virtual simulation that would include a DEM of the raw material feed and particle distribution of that feed onto the burden in the furnace.

CFD of the gases and liquids could also be simulated. In addition, FEA of the furnace shell internal lining could determine the stress and wear on the cooling plates or carbon blocks in the hearth of the furnace.

Source: Soto Group

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