1. To create an independent service provider for up-scaling and integrating hydrometallurgical processes:
Up-scaling facilities in ore-processing and pyrometallurgy already exist in Europe. Their expertise enables innovation in primary and secondary raw materials’ production in Europe. To propose a full technological offer, an open hydrometallurgical pilot facility is required.
2. Enable access to low grade, polymetallic resources in Europe:
Primary and secondary resources in Europe are often complex and difficult to valorize. There is a need to foster innovation in extractive metallurgy to access these resources.
3. Developping eco-concieved extractive processes:
In a context of increased awareness to environmental issues, innovative hydrometallurgical processes need to maximize resource efficiency, to minimize their carbon and water foot-print, to produce safe effluents and solid wastes.
Since the mid-2000s, raw materials issues have attracted a renewed attention in Europe. Indeed European Countries and the EU itself have realised how dependent they were on foreign imports to access non energetic raw materials. This dependence is a threat to Europe’s industrial network and global competitiveness. In parallel, owing to the presence in Europe of valuable sources of such minerals, new market opportunities in this field may strengthen economic growth in Europe.
Production of metals is capital intensive and failed investments in production facilities can lead to disasters. To minimize risks and to develop efficient processes, pilot plant trials are of critical importance. A pilot plant is a facility where process, equipment and process parameters can be integrated and tested at a certain scale (for hydrometallurgy typical throughput figures go from a few litres per hour up to a hundred litres per hour). The aim of process development at pilot scale is to enhance technical and economical performances, to lessen environmental impacts and to provide required data to decide whether to enter full scale industrialisation. Consequently, access to a pilot facility is necessary to bring innovative ideas or concepts into industrial use, i.e. “Crossing the valley of death”.
In Europe, there exist several metallurgical and mineral processing pilot plants covering many different aspects of mineral processing, metallurgy and production of metals including Critical Raw Materials (SRMs).
Among the available technological families enabling the valorisation of CRMs, hydrometallurgy is considered as an important part of the processing tool-box. Unfortunately, in Europe, there is no hydrometallurgical equivalent available to the piloting service providers in mineralurgy (such as GTK Mintek in Finland) or in pyrometallurgy (such as SWEREA-MEFOS in Sweden).
This commitment thus aims at the creation of such a pilot development facility, which should:
i- be able to operate from 1 to 50l/h; 24/7 up to 12 weeks in a row
ii- be a tool to pilot complete processes starting from minerallurgical concentrates or secondary raw materials, ending with purified metals and waste streams
To do so the Institute will operate piloting platforms:
i- consisting in about 1000m² of labs and 2000m² of piloting halls
ii- offering access to the main hydrometallurgical techniques, including: leaching, bioleaching, precipitation, solvent extraction, electro-winning, etc.
iii- possessing their own analytic and research laboratory
iv- offering simulation tools to get more value from the tests’ results and to facilitate further up-scaling
The created facility will be part of the pilot facility platform described by the MetNet commitment and lean, for its R&D needs, on the research network described in the EurOPEM commitment.
To achieve its goals this commitment encompasses the following activities:
1. Identification of user’s needs (2014-2015):
i- Map the needed techniques to respond to the projects of the future partners and customers
ii- Identify the best working practices to create a successful facility
2. Search for funding (from 2014)
i- Search for direct regional, national and EU support
ii- Search for industrial shareholders
iii- Collaborative projects and R&D services
3. Construction of the facility (2014- 2018)
i- Acquisition of the needed equipment
ii- Building of a first platform (2015)
iii- Building of the complete institute (2017)
4. Operation (from 2015)
i- Starting ASAP in an existing building
ii- Progressively developping the capacity and the service offer
1. Minimising risk for industrial investments:
Building a new extraction plant or implementing a new extraction process is very capital intensive (typical figures reach billions of Euros) and the risks involved are very high. The ability to safely bring projects from low to high TRLs (Technology Readiness Levels) is crucial for the successful development of new projects, the sustainable access to new raw materials or the safe implementation of innovative processes. The EHI will provide such opportunity for the European industrial community.
2. Faster industrialisation:
Numerous good ideas are doomed to stay in the drawer of creative scientists because they never have a chance to get access to up-scaling facilities. To help more low TRL projects to grow in TRL, the EHI will devote part of its piloting time to projects issuing form the EuROPEM research network (see corresponding RM-commitment).
3. More social acceptance for metallurgical activities:
Due to land use policies, industrial sites in Europe are a scarce resource. Moreover, they are often located close to populated areas. The development of new plants and investments in existing plants won’t therefore be possible without sufficient public support. The latter requires (amongst others) the development of cleaner and safer processes, hence the necessary development tools for these processes, such as pilot test facilities.
4. More value and job creation in Europe:
The purpose of this commitment is not just to address a threat to our high-tech industry. It is also an opportunity to create new metallurgical companies and to develop the activities of the existing ones. Allowing piloting to take place in Europe will develop the skills European professionals create know-how in Europe.
The EHI (within the MetNet network) will offer a holistic approach to metal production. Its comprehensive service will provide more scalability for its clients’ business and enable them to minimize their financial and industrial risks :
i- Established industrial players will beneficiate from the EHI task force as well as from the EHI’s academic network. The EHI will be their dedicated trouble shooting and innovation acceleration tool.
ii- For SMEs, the EHI will be a partner to test their ideas (be they extraction processes, new equipment, waste treatment processes, etc.) at realistic conditions so to reduce time-to-market.
iii- Academic research institutions will have privileged access to EHI facilities, via the EuROPEM Network. This will broaden the pool of mature technologies available to industrial companies.
-> The EHI will thus contribute to a more innovation friendly environment in Europe.
CEA will act as the coordinating partner of this project. It will be responsible for building the consortium, identifying the needs, searching the needed financial support, designing and building the most appropriate technical solution.