(19)
(11)EP 3 222 737 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
27.11.2019 Bulletin 2019/48

(21)Application number: 15872381.7

(22)Date of filing:  15.09.2015
(51)Int. Cl.: 
C21B 13/00  (2006.01)
C21B 13/10  (2006.01)
C22B 1/245  (2006.01)
C22B 23/00  (2006.01)
C22C 1/02  (2006.01)
C22B 5/10  (2006.01)
C22B 1/24  (2006.01)
C22B 23/02  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/JP2015/076198
(87)International publication number:
WO 2016/103812 (30.06.2016 Gazette  2016/26)

(54)

METHOD FOR SMELTING NICKEL OXIDE ORE

VERFAHREN ZUM SCHMELZEN VON NICKELOXIDERZ

PROCÉDÉ DE FUSION DE MINERAI D'OXYDE DE NICKEL


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 24.12.2014 JP 2014260759

(43)Date of publication of application:
27.09.2017 Bulletin 2017/39

(73)Proprietor: Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Ltd.
Tokyo 105-8716 (JP)

(72)Inventors:
  • TAKAHASHI, Junichi
    Tokyo 105-8716 (JP)
  • INOUE, Taku
    Tokyo 105-8716 (JP)
  • OKADA, Shuuji
    Tokyo 105-8716 (JP)

(74)Representative: Jones, Nicholas Andrew 
Withers & Rogers LLP 4 More London Riverside
London, SE1 2AU
London, SE1 2AU (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 1 167 547
CA-A- 958 221
JP-A- H0 625 770
JP-A- 2001 181 720
JP-A- 2003 239 008
JP-A- 2011 256 414
WO-A1-2014/080831
CN-A- 101 020 957
JP-A- H05 311 265
JP-A- 2002 285 213
JP-A- 2004 156 140
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    TECHNICAL FIELD



    [0001] The present invention relates to a method for smelting nickel oxide ore. More specifically, the present invention relates to a method for smelting nickel oxide ore including: forming a pellet from nickel oxide ore serving as a raw material ore; and smelting it by heat-reducing the pellet in a smelting furnace, thereby smelting the nickel oxide ore.

    BACKGROUND ART



    [0002] As methods for smelting nickel oxide ore which may also be called limonite or saprolite, known are a dry smelting method for producing nickel matt using a flash smelting furnace, a dry smelting method for producing an iron-nickel alloy (ferronickel) using a rotary kiln or moving hearth furnace, a wet smelting method for producing mixed sulfide using an autoclave and the like.

    [0003] Dry smelting of nickel oxide ore commonly includes roasting the ore in a rotary kiln, and then melting the roasted ore in an electric furnace to obtain a ferronickel metal, and then separating slag. At this time, some iron is allowed to remain in the slag for maintaining the concentration of nickel in the ferronickel metal at a high level. However, it disadvantageously requires a large amount of electric energy because the whole amount of nickel oxide ore needs to be melted to generate slag and a ferronickel.

    [0004] Patent Document 1 discloses a method including inputting nickel oxide ore and a reducing agent (anthracite) into a rotary kiln, and reducing the ore in a semi-molten state to reduce parts of nickel and iron into metal, and then recovering a ferronickel by gravity separation or magnetic separation. Advantageously, according to the above method, a ferronickel metal can be obtained without performing electric melting, leading to reduced energy consumption. However, the method suffers from the following problems: reduction is performed in a semi-molten state, and thus the produced metal will be dispersed in the form of small particles; and the yield of nickel metal will be relatively low, partly due to losses during gravity separation and magnetic separation.

    [0005] Further, Patent Document 2 discloses a method for producing a ferronickel using a moving hearth furnace. The method described in the above document includes mixing raw materials containing nickel oxide and iron oxide with a carbonaceous reducing agent to form a pellet, and heat-reducing the mixture in a moving hearth furnace to obtain a reduced mixture, and then melting the reduced mixture in a separate furnace to obtain a ferronickel. The document describes that alternatively, both slag and metal or one of either may be melted in a moving hearth furnace. However, melting the reduced mixture in a separate furnace requires a large amount of energy, as in the melting process in an electric furnace. Further, disadvantageously, the slag and the metal may be fused to the furnace floor when melted in the furnace, resulting in difficult discharge from the furnace.

    [0006] Furthermore, almost all of the ferronickel recovered from nickel oxide ore, including limonite, saprolite, and the like, will serve as a raw material of stainless steel. Ferronickel with a high concentration of nickel is preferred for a raw material of stainless steel. Ferronickel with a nickel grade of 4% or more is usually sold at a price in accordance with the international standard price of LME. Disadvantageously, ferronickel with a nickel grade of less than 4%, on the other hand, may not be easily sold.

    [0007] CN101020957A describes a process of rapidly reducing nickel enriched by carbonaceous latent nickel ore pellets in a rotary hearth furnace, for obtaining material with high nickel content.

    [0008] CA958221A describes a process for rapid reduction of pellets comprising iron oxide-bearing materials and carbon particles as they travel through a rotary kiln counter-current to combustion gases.

    [0009] JP2002285213A describes a process for producing a reduced metal product, comprising supplying a raw material containing metal and a solid reducing agent onto a rotating hearth of a moving hearth furnace.

    Patent Document 1: Japanese Examined Patent Application Publication No. H01-21855

    Patent Document 2: Japanese Unexamined Patent Application, Publication No. 2004-156140


    DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION


    Problems to be Solved by the Invention



    [0010] The present invention is proposed in view of the above circumstances. An object of the present invention is to provide a method for smelting nickel oxide ore, including forming a pellet from the nickel oxide ore, and heat-reducing the pellet in a smelting furnace to obtain an iron-nickel alloy (ferronickel), in which a high nickel grade of 4% or more can be achieved for the iron-nickel alloy by effectively promoting a smelting reaction in the smelting step (reduction step) .

    Means for Solving the Problems



    [0011] The present inventors have conducted extensive studies to achieve the above object. After those extensive studies, the present inventors found that a reduction reaction can be effectively promoted to obtain an iron-nickel alloy with a high nickel grade by mixing nickel oxide ore serving as a raw material with a specific amount of a carbonaceous reducing agent to produce a pellet, and charging the pellet into a smelting furnace with the furnace floor covered with the carbonaceous reducing agent to perform reduction heat treatment. Then, the present invention was completed. That is, the present invention can provide the following.
    1. (1) The present invention can provide a method for smelting nickel oxide ore, in which a pellet is formed from the nickel oxide ore, and the pellet is heat-reduced to obtain an iron-nickel alloy with a nickel grade of 4% or more, the method including:

      a pellet production step of producing a pellet having a pellet size of 10 to 30 mm from the nickel oxide ore, and a reduction step for heat-reducing the resulting pellet in a smelting furnace,

      the pellet production step including mixing the nickel oxide ore with at least a carbonaceous reducing agent, the mixed amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent being adjusted so that the amount of carbon is 0.1% or more and 40% or less when the total combined value of a chemical equivalent required for reducing nickel oxide contained in the resulting pellet into nickel metal and a chemical equivalent required for reducing ferric oxide contained in said pellet into ferrous oxide and then further reducing a portion of the ferrous oxide into iron metal until the ratio of iron and nickel is 80:20 by mass in an iron-nickel alloy to be obtained is taken as 100%, and agglomerating the resulting mixture to form a pellet having a pellet size of 10 to 30 mm, and the reduction step including pre-covering the furnace floor of the smelting furnace with a furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent in an amount suitable for establishing a reducing atmosphere under which a metal shell forms on the pellet during reduction heat treatment and melts at a rate such that it remains intact during discharge of a heat-reduced pellet to the outside of the furnace before charging the resulting pellet into the smelting furnace, and performing reduction heat treatment at a heating temperature of 1350°C or more and 1550°C or less with the pellet loaded onto the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent.

    2. (2) Further, the present invention can provide the method for smelting nickel oxide ore according to the above (1), in which the temperature when the pellet is charged into the smelting furnace is 600°C or less.

    Effects of the Invention



    [0012] According to the present invention, an iron-nickel alloy with a high nickel grade of 4% or more can be obtained by effectively promoting a reduction reaction.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0013] 

    Fig. 1 is a process drawing showing the flow of a method for smelting nickel oxide ore.

    Fig. 2 is a process flowchart showing the flow of processes in the pellet production step of the method for smelting nickel oxide ore.

    Fig. 3 schematically shows a state where a pellet is charged into a smelting furnace.

    Fig. 4 schematically shows a course of the reduction heat treatment for the pellet.

    Fig. 5 schematically shows a course of total melting of a metal shell as carburization progresses.


    PREFERRED MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION



    [0014] Below, specific embodiments of the present invention (hereafter referred to as the "present embodiments") will be described in detail with reference to the drawings. It is noted that the present invention shall not be limited to the following embodiments, and various modifications may be made without departing from the scope and the gist of the present invention.

    <<Method for Smelting Nickel Oxide Ore>>



    [0015] First, the method for smelting nickel oxide ore serving as a raw material ore will be described. Below, used as an example is a method for smelting, including pelletizing nickel oxide ore serving as a raw material ore, and reducing the resulting pellet to generate metal (an iron-nickel alloy (hereinafter, the iron-nickel alloy may be referred to as a "ferronickel")) and slag, and then separating the metal from the slag to produce the ferronickel.

    [0016] The method for smelting nickel oxide ore according to the present embodiment includes preparing a pellet of the nickel oxide ore, and charging the pellet into a smelting furnace (reducing furnace), and performing heat reduction to obtain an iron-nickel alloy with a nickel grade of 4% or more. Specifically, as shown in the process chart of Fig. 1, the method for smelting nickel oxide ore according to the present embodiment includes a pellet production step S1 for producing a pellet from the nickel oxide ore, a reduction step S2 for heat-reducing the resulting pellet at a predetermined reduction temperature in a reducing furnace, and a separation step S3 of separating the metal and slag generated in the reduction step S2 to recover the metal.

    <1. Pellet Production Step>



    [0017] In the pellet production step S1, a pellet is produced from nickel oxide ore serving as a raw material ore. Fig. 2 is a process flowchart showing the flow of processing in the pellet production step S1. As shown in Fig. 2, the pellet production step S1 includes a mixing process step S11 of mixing raw materials containing a nickel oxide ore, an agglomeration process step S12 of forming (granulating) the resulting mixture into a lump, and a drying process step S13 of drying the resulting lump.

    (1) Mixing Process Step



    [0018] In the mixing process step S11, a raw material powder containing nickel oxide ore is mixed to obtain a mixture. Specifically, in the mixing process step S11, raw material powders of a flux component, a binder and the like are mixed in addition to a nickel oxide ore serving as a raw material ore to obtain a mixture, the raw material powders having a particle size, for example, on the order of 0.2 mm to 0.8 mm.

    [0019] Here, when producing a pellet according to the present embodiment, a predetermined amount of a carbonaceous reducing agent is mixed to obtain a mixture, which is then used to form the pellet. There is no particular limitation for the carbonaceous reducing agent, but examples include coal powder, coke powder and the like. It is noted that the carbonaceous reducing agent preferably has a particle size similar to that of the nickel oxide ore as described above.

    [0020] Here, the mixed amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent is adjusted so that the amount of carbon is 0.1% or more and 40% or less when the total combined value of a chemical equivalent (that hereinafter may also be referred to as a "chemical equivalent value" for convenience) required for reducing nickel oxide contained in the resulting pellet into nickel metal and a chemical equivalent (chemical equivalent value) required for reducing ferric oxide contained in said pellet into ferrous oxide and then further reducing a portion of the ferrous oxide into iron metal until the ratio of iron and nickel is 80:20 by mass in an iron-nickel alloy to be obtained (which may be referred to as the "total value of the chemical equivalent values") is taken as 100%.

    [0021] When a pellet is produced by mixing nickel ore with a mixed amount of a carbonaceous reducing agent in a predetermined proportion as described above, i.e., using a mixed amount of a carbonaceous reducing agent adjusted so that the amount of carbon is 40% or less relative to the aforementioned total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%, trivalent iron oxide can effectively be reduced into divalent iron oxide, and nickel oxide can also be converted into metal, and the divalent iron oxide can be further reduced into metal to form a metal shell in the reduction heat treatment in the next reduction step S2 as further described below. In addition, partial reduction treatment can be performed in which some of the iron oxide contained in the shell is allowed to remain as oxide. This more effectively enables separate formation of a ferronickel metal (metal) with a high nickel grade and ferronickel slag (slag) inside one pellet.

    [0022] The carbonaceous reducing agent is adjusted so that the amount of carbon is in a proportion of 0.1% or more relative to the total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100% in view of a reaction rate.

    [0023] There is no particular limitation for the nickel oxide ore, but limonite ore, saprolite ore and the like can be used. An iron component is contained in the nickel oxide ore.

    [0024] Further, examples of the binder can include bentonite, polysaccharide, resin, water glass, dewatered cake and the like. Further, examples of the flux component can include calcium oxide, calcium hydroxide, calcium carbonate, silicon dioxide and the like.

    [0025] Table 1 below shows an example of the composition (wt%) of a mixture obtained by mixing the raw material powders. However, the composition of the mixture of raw material powders is not limited to this example.
    [Table 1]
    Dry ratio by weight of mixture of raw material powders [wt%] NiO Fe2O3 SiO2 CaO MgO Al2O3
    1.5 62.5 18.9 0.1 10.4 6.6

    (2) Agglomeration Process Step



    [0026] In the agglomeration process step S12, the mixture of raw material powders obtained in the mixing process step S11 is formed (granulated) into a lump. Specifically, an amount of water required for agglomeration is added to the mixture obtained in the mixing process step S11, and a pellet-like lump is formed with a lump production device (such as a rolling granulator, a compression molding machine, and an extrusion machine) or by hand.

    [0027] There is no particular limitation for the shape of the pellet, but it may be, for example, spherical. Further, the size of the lump to be formed into a pellet-like shapeis on the order of 10 mm to 30 mm in terms of the size of a pellet (or the diameter in the case of a spherical pellet) to be charged into a smelting furnace in the reduction step after being subjected to the drying process and the preheat treatment described below.

    (3) Drying Process Step



    [0028] In the drying process step S13, the lump obtained from the agglomeration process step S12 is subjected to a drying process. The lump formed into a pellet-like lump in the agglomeration process has an excess content of water as high as, for example, about 50 wt%, resulting in a sticky condition. In the drying process step S13, a drying process is performed so that the solid content of the lump is, for example, about 70 wt%, and the water content is about 30 wt% in order to facilitate the handling of the pellet-like lump. There is no particular limitation for the drying process of a lump in the drying process step S13, but more specifically, hot air, at 300°C to 400°C for example, may be blown against the lump for drying. It is noted that the temperature of a lump when performing the drying process is less than 100°C.

    [0029] An example of the composition (wt%) of the solid content of a pellet-like lump after the drying process is shown in Table 2 below. It is noted that the composition of a lump after the drying process shall not be limited to this example.
    [Table 2]
    Composition of solid content of dried pellet [wt%] NiO Fe2O3 SiO2 CaO MgO Al2O3 Binder Others
    0.8∼1.5 30∼70 10∼25 0.1∼10 4∼12 4∼9 About 1 Remainder


    [0030] In the pellet production step S1, a raw material powder containing nickel oxide ore serving as a raw material ore is mixed as described above, and the resulting mixture is granulated (agglomerated) into a pellet-like shape and dried to produce a pellet. At this time, a predetermined amount of a carbonaceous reducing agent is mixed according to the composition as described above when mixing raw material powders, and the resulting mixture is used to produce a pellet. The size of the resulting pellet is on the order of 10 mm to 30 mm. Pellets are to be produced which are strong enough to maintain the shapes thereof, such that, for example, the proportion of collapsed pellets is about 1% or less even after they are dropped from a height of 1m. Such pellets can withstand impacts of dropping and the like upon charging in the subsequent step of the reduction step S2, and can maintain their pellet-like shapes. Further, appropriate spaces will be formed between pellets. These can allow a smelting reaction in the smelting step to progress appropriately.

    [0031] It is noted that a preheat treatment step may be included in this pellet production step S1, the preheat treatment step including preheating lumped pellets subjected to the drying process in the drying process step S13 described above to a predetermined temperature. Production of pellets via preheating a lump after the drying process as described above can reduce cracks (breaking, crumbling) in pellets induced by heat shock more effectively even when pellets are heat-reduced at a temperature as high as, for example, about 1400°C in the reduction step S2. For example, the proportion of crumbled pellets relative to the total pellets charged into a smelting furnace can be reduced to a low level, and the pellet-like shape can be maintained more effectively.

    [0032] Specifically, in the preheat treatment, pellets after the drying process are preheated at a temperature of 350°C to 600°C. Further, the preheat treatment is preferably performed at a temperature of 400°C to 550°C. Preheat treatment performed at a temperature of 350°C to 600°C, or preferably at a temperature of 400°C to 550°C as described above, can reduce crystal water contained in nickel oxide ore of pellets. Therefore, collapsing of pellets due to the release of their crystal water can be reduced even when the temperature is rapidly increased by being charged into a smelting furnace at about 1400°C. Further, the preheat treatment performed as described above allows the thermal expansion of particles of nickel oxide ore, a carbonaceous reducing agent, a binder, a flux component and the like that compose the pellets to proceed slowly in two steps. This, in turn, can reduce collapsing of pellets due to differential expansion of particles. It is noted that there is no particular limitation for the processing time for the preheat treatment, and it can be appropriately adjusted depending on the size of the lump containing nickel oxide ore. It may be, however, on the order of 10 minutes to 60 minutes when a lump with a common size which results in obtained pellets having a size on the order of 10 mm to 30 mm is used.

    <2. Reduction Step>



    [0033] In the reduction step S2, the pellet obtained from the pellet production step S1 is heat-reduced at a predetermined reduction temperature. This reduction heat treatment of the pellet in the reduction step S2 promotes a smelting reaction (reduction reaction) to generate metal and slag.

    [0034] Specifically, the reduction heat treatment in the reduction step S2 is performed in a smelting furnace (reducing furnace). A pellet containing nickel oxide ore is charged into the smelting furnace heated to a predetermined temperature for performing heat reduction. Specifically, the reduction heat treatment of a pellet is performed at 1350°C or more and 1550°C or less. A heat reduction temperature of less than 1350°C may not be able to effectively promote a reduction reaction. On the other hand, a heat reduction temperature of more than 1550°C may excessively promote a reduction reaction, resulting in a decreased nickel grade.

    [0035] There is no particular limitation for the temperature when a pellet is charged into a smelting furnace, but it is preferably 600°C or less. Further, it is more preferably 550°C or less in view that the possibility of burning a pellet due to the carbonaceous reducing agent can be more efficiently reduced.

    [0036] When the temperature when a pellet is charged into a smelting furnace is more than 600°C, combustion of a carbonaceous reducing agent contained in a pellet may occur. On the other hand, there is no particular limitation for the lower limit, but it is preferably 500°C or more because a much lower temperature may be disadvantageous in view of heating costs for a process where reduction heat treatment is continuously performed. It is noted that even if the temperature of a pellet upon charging is not controlled within the above temperature range, a pellet can be charged into a smelting furnace without causing any particular problems if charging is completed in a short time during which no impacts from burning and sintering occur.

    [0037] Now, in the present embodiment, for charging the resulting pellet in a smelting furnace, the furnace floor of said smelting furnace is pre-covered with a carbonaceous reducing agent (hereinafter referred to as the "furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent"), and pellets are loaded onto said furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent pre-covering the floor to perform reduction heat treatment. Specifically, as shown in the schematic view of Fig. 3, the furnace floor 1a of a smelting furnace 1 is pre-covered with a furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10, for example, coal powder and the like, onto which a produced pellet 20 is loaded to perform the reduction heat treatment.

    [0038] Here, Figs. 4A to 4F schematically show the course of the reduction reaction in the pellet 20 when the reduction heat treatment is performed in the reduction step S2. First, in the present embodiment as described above, the furnace floor 1a of the smelting furnace 1 is pre-covered with the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10, and the pellet 20 is loaded onto that furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10, and then the reduction heat treatment is started. It is noted that the reference number "15" is assigned to the carbonaceous reducing agent contained in the pellet 20.

    [0039] In the reduction heat treatment, heat is conducted through the surface (surface layer portion) of the pellet 20 to promote a reduction reaction of iron oxide contained in a raw material ore as shown in the following reaction formula (i) (Fig. 4A), for example.

            3Fe2O3 + C -> 2Fe3O4 + CO ···     (i)



    [0040] When reduction at the surface layer portion 20a of the pellet 20 progresses to a reduction level of FeO (Fe3O4 + C -> 3FeO + CO), replacement of nickel oxide (NiO) combined as NiO-SiO2 with FeO is promoted to initiate reduction of Ni at the surface layer portion 20a as represented by the following reaction formula (ii) (Fig. 4B), for example. Subsequently, a reaction similar to the above reduction reaction of Ni is gradually promoted in the inside as heat is conducted from the outside.

            NiO + CO -> Ni + CO2 ···     (ii)



    [0041] When the reduction reaction of iron oxide, for example, as shown in the following reaction formula (iii) progresses along with the reduction reaction of nickel oxide at the surface layer portion 20a of the pellet 20, a metal-forming process progresses at said surface layer portion 20a in a very short time, such as about 1 minute, to form an iron-nickel alloy (ferronickel), and then a shell of metal (metal shell) 30 is formed (Fig. 4C). It is noted that the shell 30 formed at this stage is thin, allowing CO/CO2 gas to easily pass through it. Therefore, the reaction gradually proceeds toward the inside as heat is conducted from the outside.

            FeO + CO -> Fe + CO2 ···     (iii)



    [0042] Then, as the metal shell 30 at the surface layer portion 20a of the pellet 20 gradually becomes thick due to the inwardly proceeding reaction, the inside 20b of the pellet 20 is gradually filled with CO gas. Then, the reducing atmosphere in the inside 20b increases to promote the metal-forming process of Ni and a portion of Fe, resulting in the formation of a metal particle 40 (Fig. 4D). Meanwhile, a slag component contained in the pellet 20 is gradually melted to generate slag 50 in the liquid phase (in a semi-molten state) in the inside (20b) of the metal shell 30.

    [0043] When all of the carbonaceous reducing agent 15 contained in the pellet 20 is consumed, the metal-forming process of Fe stops, and non-metallized Fe remains in the form of FeO (some are present as Fe3O4), and the slag 50 in a semi-molten state in the inside (20b) of the metal shell 30 will be totally melted (Fig. 4E). The slag 50 totally melted is in a state such that the metal particles 40 are dispersed therein.

    [0044] Meanwhile, at this stage, where the slag in a semi-molten state is totally melted, the carbon component remaining in the inside of the pellet without participating in the reaction, and the excess portion of the carbon component in the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10, such as coal powder, arranged to cover the furnace floor 1a of the smelting furnace 1, the excess portion not having been involved in the above reduction reaction, are incorporated into the metal shell 30 of an iron-nickel alloy (also referred to as "carburization" (shown by dotted-line arrows in Fig. 4E)), reducing the melting point of the iron-nickel alloy. As a result, the metal shell 30 of the iron-nickel alloy will be gradually melted.

    [0045] At this time, when the carbonaceous reducing agent is contained in the pellet, for example, in a proportion of 100% or more relative to the aforementioned total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%, a metal shell is completely melted (totally melted) due to carburization thereof. Specifically, Fig. 5 schematically shows how the metal shell is totally melted as carburization progresses after carburization against the metal shell is initiated. It is noted that in Fig. 5 for the sake of convenience, the pellet and the metal shell are designated as reference numbers of "20'" and "30'" respectively, and a process until the metal shell 30' is formed is omitted as it is similar to Figs. 4A to 4D. When the content of the carbonaceous reducing agent in the pellet is large, for example, 100% or more relative to the total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%, the metal shell 30' is totally melted as shown in Fig. 5 as reduction of iron oxide progresses. Then, this will result in a decreased nickel grade in the metal particles 40 dispersed in the slag 50.

    [0046] In contrast, according to the present embodiment, the mixed amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent 15 is adjusted to be a proportion of 0.1% or more and 40% or less relative to the aforementioned total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%. When the amount of carbon contained in the inside of the pellet is 40% or less relative to the aforementioned total value of the chemical equivalent values, almost none of the carbonaceous reducing agent 15 remains in the inside of the pellet 20 at the stage shown in Fig. 4E. Consequently, the carburization of the metal shell 30 by the carbon component present in the inside of the pellet 20 is significantly slowed, thereby significantly reducing the rate of total melting of the metal shell 30. Here, melting of the metal shell 30 progresses slowly but steadily while the carbonaceous reducing agent 15 present in the inside of the pellet 20 becomes depleted. Therefore, the pellet will be finally discharged to the outside of the furnace while the metal shell 30 with a very thin thickness remains intact to keep its pellet-like form (Fig. 4F).

    [0047] According to the present embodiment, the pellet is discharged to the outside of the furnace while the thin metal shell 30 remains intact as described above, and the metal particles 40 are recovered in a state where they are dispersed over the slag 50 in the inside of the pellet with the thin metal shell 30 which remains intact. It is noted that the metal shell 30 is very thin and thus fragile, allowing crushing treatment to be easily performed. After the crushing treatment, the slag 50 can be separated and removed by magnetic separation treatment and the like to obtain an iron-nickel alloy with a high nickel grade.

    [0048] Now, according to the present embodiment as described above, the furnace floor 1a of the smelting furnace 1 is covered with the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10, onto which the pellet 20 is loaded to perform reduction heat-treatment. If the reduction heat treatment, however, is performed without covering the floor with the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10, incorporation (carburization) of the carbon component into the metal shell would not occur, and thus the metal shell would not be melted. As a result, the process would be ended while the metal shell remains in a thick spherical form. If that is the case, the thick metal shell can not be efficiently crushed at the subsequent crushing treatment, and the metal alone can not be effectively isolated, even when magnetic separation treatment and the like are performed, resulting in a significantly reduced recovery rate of nickel.

    [0049] The amount of the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10 arranged to cover the furnace floor of a smelting furnace is in an amount suitable for establishing a reducing atmosphere under which the metal shell 30 formed on the pellet during the course of reduction heat treatment can be melted when the content of the carbonaceous reducing agent 15 in the pellet 20 is 100% or more relative to the total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%.

    [0050] Here, when the metal shell is totally melted and maintained in the liquid phase for a long time in the smelting furnace 1 as shown in Fig. 5F, for example, reduction of iron oxide may be promoted which remains unreduced by the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10 arranged to cover the furnace floor 1a thereof, resulting in a decreased nickel grade. Therefore, the metal and the slag have needed to be promptly removed from the furnace and further cooled to control the reduction reaction. In contrast, according to the present embodiment, the amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent 15 in the pellet 20 is adjusted to a predetermined proportion, of 0.1% or more and 40% or less, to allow that a thin metal shell 30 remains after the reduction heat treatment. This can prevent a decrease in the nickel grade by virtue of the barrier effect of the remaining metal shell 30 even when it is retained inside the smelting furnace 1 for relatively long time. As described above, the method of smelting nickel oxide ore according to the present embodiment can further improve workability, and can efficiently provide an iron-nickel alloy with a high nickel grade.

    [0051] Further, the composition of nickel oxide ore used as a raw material may vary depending on the type and origin of that ore. Therefore, the time to remove it from a furnace and the time for cooling are required to be adjusted for every ore to be used. In contrast, the reduction rate of iron oxide present in the inside of the shell 30 can be slowed by means of the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10 when treated so that the metal shell 30 remains in a way as in the present embodiment. This can effectively prevent a decrease in the nickel grade.

    [0052] It is noted that as a guide in the present embodiment, the time between the charging of a pellet to start the reduction heat treatment and the removal of the pellet from the smelting furnace is preferably within, for example, approximately 60 minutes. Further, the pellet is preferably cooled so that the temperature becomes, for example, 500°C or less after removing the pellet from the furnace to prevent rapid progress of reduction.

    [0053] In the present embodiment as described above, trivalent iron oxide can be reduced into divalent iron oxide by the predetermined amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent 15 mixed in the pellet 20, and nickel oxide can also be converted into metal, and divalent iron oxide can be further reduced into metal to form the metal shell 30 and the metal particles 40. In addition, the reduction heat treatment is performed with the furnace floor of a smelting furnace covered with the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10, and thus the carbon component in the excess portion of the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent 10 not involved in the aforementioned reduction reaction in the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent arranged to cover the floor is incorporated into an iron-nickel alloy constituting the metal shell 30 as the reduction treatment progresses, resulting in moderate carburization and allowing a portion of the iron-nickel alloy to be melted and dispersed into the slag.

    [0054] In particular, the amount of a carbonaceous reducing agent to be mixed in a pellet is adjusted to a predetermined proportion, i.e., adjusted so that the amount of carbon is 0.1% or more and 40% or less relative to the aforementioned total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%, and then mixed with other raw materials to produce a pellet. Then the reduction heat treatment is performed on the resulting pellet to perform a so-called partial reduction, i.e., to allow the total of the iron oxide in the resulting metal shell 30 to be non-reduced during the reduction reaction thereof and allow a portion of the iron to remain as iron oxide so that thin and fragile metal shell 30 remains therein.

    [0055] These enable enrichment of nickel, and also enable separate production of a ferronickel metal with an even higher nickel grade as well as ferronickel slag in the inside of one pellet. Specifically, an iron-nickel alloy (ferronickel) in which the nickel grade is higher than the proportion of nickel and iron in nickel oxide ore by 1.5 times or more, i.e., an iron-nickel alloy having a high nickel grade of 4% or more can be manufactured.

    [0056] It is noted that the metal and the slag separately produced will not be mixed together even though the slag in a pellet is melted and present in the liquid phase, but will form a mixture where the metal solid phase and the slag solid phase coexist as separate phases after subsequent cooling. The volume of this mixture is reduced to a volume on the order of 50% to 60% as compared with that of the charged pellet.

    <3. Separation Step>



    [0057] In the separation step S3, the metal and the slag produced in the reduction step S2 are separated to recover the metal. Specifically, the metal phase is separated and recovered from a mixture containing the metal phase (the metal solid phase) and the slag phase (the slag solid phase containing a carbonaceous reducing agent) inside the thin metal shell 30 obtained from the reduction heat treatment of a pellet.

    [0058] As a method for separating the metal phase and the slag phase from the mixture of the metal phase and the slag phase obtained as a solid, for example, the gravity separation method, the magnetic separation method and the like can used in addition to a method for removing large-sized particulate metal by sieving after cracking or grinding. That is, the thin metal shell 30 is first crushed to crush a mixture of the metal and slag phases inside the metal shell, and sieving is performed followed by magnetic separation and the like. The resulting metal and slag phases have poor wettability, allowing them to be separated easily.

    [0059] The metal and slag phases are separated as described above to recover the metal phase.

    EXAMPLES



    [0060] Below, the present invention will be described in a more specific way with reference to Examples and Comparative Examples, but the present invention shall not be limited to the following Examples in any sense.

    [Example 1]



    [0061] Nickel oxide ore serving as a raw material ore, a binder, and a carbonaceous reducing agent were mixed to obtain a mixture. The mixed amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent included in the mixture was such that the amount of carbon was 20% relative to the total combined value of a chemical equivalent (chemical equivalent value) required for reducing nickel oxide contained in the resulting pellet into nickel metal and a chemical equivalent (chemical equivalent value) required for reducing ferric oxide contained in said pellet into ferrous oxide and then further reducing a portion of the ferrous oxide into iron metal until the ratio of iron and nickel is 80:20 by mass in an iron-nickel alloy to be obtained was taken as 100%.

    [0062] Next, an appropriate amount of water was added to the resulting mixture of the raw material powders, and kneading was performed by hand to form a spherical lump. Then, drying treatment was performed in which hot air at 300°C to 400°C was blown against the lump until the solid content of the resulting lump became about 70 wt%, and the water content became about 30 wt% to produce a spherical pellet (size (diameter): 17 mm). The composition of the solid content of the pellet after the drying treatment is shown in Table 3 below.
    [Table 3]
    Composition of solid content of dried pellet [wt%] Fe2O3 NiO SiO2 CaO Al2O3 MgO
    33 0.8 17 12 3.5 5.5


    [0063] Next, the furnace floor of a smelting furnace was covered with a coal powder (carbon content: 85 wt%, particle size: 0.4 mm) which served as a carbonaceous reducing agent, and 100 produced pellets were then charged so as to be loaded onto the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent arranged to cover the furnace floor thereof. The pellets were charged into the smelting furnace at a temperature condition of 600°C or less.

    [0064] Then, reduction heat treatment was performed in the smelting furnace at a reduction temperature of 1400°C. Subsequently, the pellets were removed from the furnace 15 minutes after the start of the reduction heat treatment.

    [0065] An iron-nickel alloy (ferronickel metal) and slag were obtained from the reduction heat treatment as described above. The nickel and iron grades of the resulting ferronickel metal are shown in Table 4 below. The nickel grade of the iron-nickel alloy was 5.0%, which corresponded to about 1.8 times of a nickel grade of 2.8% where nickel and iron in the nickel ore are assumed to be all converted into metal.
    [Table 4]
     Grade [%]
    NiFe
    Metal 5.0 92
    Slag <0.1 41

    [Example 2]



    [0066] Raw materials were mixed as in Example 1 to obtain a mixture, and then dry pellets were produced. At this time, the mixed amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent as a raw material in Example 2 was such that the amount of carbon was 40% relative to the aforementioned total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%.

    [0067] Next, the furnace floor of a smelting furnace was covered with a coal powder (carbon content: 85 wt%, particle size: 0.4 mm) which served as a carbonaceous reducing agent, and 100 produced pellets were then charged so as to be loaded onto the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent arranged to cover the furnace floor thereof. The pellets were charged into the smelting furnace at a temperature condition of 600°C or less.

    [0068] Then, reduction heat treatment was performed in the smelting furnace at a reduction temperature of 1400°C. The pellets were then removed from the furnace 5 minutes after the start of the reduction heat treatment.

    [0069] A ferronickel metal and slag were obtained from the reduction heat treatment as described above. The nickel and iron grades of the resulting ferronickel metal are shown in Table 5 below. The nickel grade of the iron-nickel alloy was 4.8%, which corresponded to about 1.7 times of a nickel grade of 2.8% where nickel and iron in the nickel ore were assumed to be all converted into metal.
    [Table 5]
     Grade [%]
    NiFe
    Metal 4.8 93
    Slag <0.1 42

    [Example 3]



    [0070] Raw materials were mixed in a similar way as in Example 1 to obtain a mixture, and then dry pellets were produced. At this time, the mixed amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent as a raw material was such that the amount of carbon was 20% relative to the aforementioned total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%.

    [0071] Next, the furnace floor of a smelting furnace was covered with a coal power (carbon content: 85 wt%, particle size: 0.4 mm) which served as a carbonaceous reducing agent, and 100 produced pellets were then charged so as to be loaded onto the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent arranged to cover the furnace floor thereof. The pellets were charged into the smelting furnace under a temperature condition of 600°C or less.

    [0072] Then, reduction heat treatment was performed inside the smelting furnace at a reduction temperature of 1400°C. Subsequently, the pellets were removed from the furnace 30 minutes after the start of the reduction heat treatment.

    [0073] A ferronickel metal and slag were obtained from the reduction heat treatment as described above. The nickel and iron grades of the resulting ferronickel metal are shown in Table 6 below. The nickel grade of the iron-nickel alloy was 4.7%, which corresponded to about 1.7 times of a nickel grade of 2.8% where nickel and iron in the nickel ore were assumed to be all converted into metal.
    [Table 6]
     Grade [%]
    NiFe
    Metal 4.7 92
    Slag <0.1 39

    [Example 4]



    [0074] Raw materials were mixed in a similar way as in Example 1 to obtain a mixture, and then dry pellets were produced. At this time, the mixed amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent as a raw material in Example 4 was such that the amount of carbon was 0.1% relative to the aforementioned total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%.

    [0075] Next, the furnace floor of a smelting furnace was covered with a coal powder (carbon content: 85 wt%, particle size: 0.4 mm) which served as a carbonaceous reducing agent, and 100 produced pellets were then charged so as to be loaded onto the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent arranged to cover the furnace floor thereof. The pellets were charged into the smelting furnace at a temperature condition of 600°C or less.

    [0076] Then, reduction heat treatment was performed in the smelting furnace at a reduction temperature of 1400°C. The pellets were then removed from the furnace 30 minutes after the start of the reduction heat treatment.

    [0077] A ferronickel metal and slag were obtained from the reduction heat treatment as described above. The nickel and iron grades of the resulting ferronickel metal are shown in Table 7 below. The nickel grade of the iron-nickel alloy was 5.5%, which corresponded to about 2.0 times of a nickel grade of 2.8% where nickel and iron in the nickel ore were assumed to be all converted into metal.
    [Table 7]
     Grade [%]
    NiFe
    Metal 5.5 90
    Slag <0.1 43

    [Comparative Example 1]



    [0078] Raw materials were mixed in a similar way as in Example 1 to obtain a mixture, and then dry pellets were produced. At this time, the mixed amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent as a raw material in Comparative Example 1 was such that the amount of carbon was 50% relative to the aforementioned total value of the chemical equivalent values being 100%.

    [0079] Next, the furnace floor of a smelting furnace was covered with a coal power (carbon content: 85 wt%, particle size: 0.4 mm) which served as a carbonaceous reducing agent, and 100 produced pellets were then charged so as to be loaded onto the furnace-floor carbonaceous reducing agent arranged to cover the furnace floor thereof. The pellets were charged into the smelting furnace at a temperature condition of 600°C or less.

    [0080] Then, reduction heat treatment was performed inside the smelting furnace at a reducing temperature of 1400°C. The pellets were removed from the furnace 10 minutes after the start of the reduction heat treatment.

    [0081] A ferronickel metal and slag were obtained from the reduction heat treatment as described above. The nickel and iron grades of the resulting ferronickel metal are shown in Table 8 below. As clearly seen from the result shown in Table 8, the nickel grade of the resulting iron-nickel alloy was 3.7%, which corresponded to only about 1.3 times of a nickel grade of 2.8% where nickel and iron in the nickel ore were assumed to be all converted into metal. That is, nickel was not sufficiently enriched in the ferronickel metal, and metal with a high nickel grade was not able to be obtained.
    [Table 8]
     Grade [%]
    NiFe
    Metal 3.7 93
    Slag 0.2 42

    EXPLANATION OF REFERENCE NUMERALS



    [0082] 

    10 Furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent (arranged to cover furnace floor)

    15 Carbonaceous reducing agent

    20 Pellet

    30 Metal shell (Shell)

    40 Metal particle

    50 Slag




    Claims

    1. A method for smelting nickel oxide ore, in which a pellet is formed from the nickel oxide ore, and the pellet is heat-reduced to obtain an iron-nickel alloy with a nickel grade of 4% or more, the method comprising:

    a pellet production step for producing a pellet having a pellet size of 10 to 30 mm from the nickel oxide ore, and

    a reduction step for heat-reducing the resulting pellet in a smelting furnace,

    the pellet production step comprising mixing the nickel oxide ore with at least a carbonaceous reducing agent, the mixed amount of the carbonaceous reducing agent being adjusted so that the amount of carbon is 0.1% or more and 40% or less when the total combined value of a chemical equivalent required for reducing nickel oxide contained in the resulting pellet into nickel metal and a chemical equivalent required for reducing ferric oxide contained in said pellet into ferrous oxide and then further reducing a portion of the ferrous oxide into iron metal until the ratio of iron and nickel is 80:20 by mass in an iron-nickel alloy to be obtained is taken as 100%, and agglomerating the resulting mixture to form a pellet having a pellet size of 10 to 30 mm, and

    the reduction step comprising pre-covering the furnace floor of the smelting furnace with a furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent in an amount suitable for establishing a reducing atmosphere under which a metal shell forms on the pellet during reduction heat treatment and melts at a rate such that it remains intact during discharge of a heat-reduced pellet to the outside of the furnace before charging the resulting pellet into the smelting furnace, and performing reduction heat treatment at a heating temperature of 1350°C or more and 1550°C or less with the pellet loaded onto the furnace floor carbonaceous reducing agent.


     
    2. The method for smelting nickel oxide ore according to claim 1, wherein
    the temperature when the pellet is charged into the smelting furnace is 600°C or less.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Verfahren zum Verhütten von Nickeloxiderz, bei dem aus dem Nickeloxiderz ein Pellet gebildet wird, und das Pellet einer Heißreduktion unterzogen wird, so dass eine Eisen-Nickellegierung mit einem Nickelgehalt von 4 % oder mehr erhalten wird, wobei das Verfahren umfasst:

    einen Pellet-Herstellungsschritt zum Herstellen eines Pellets mit einer Pelletgröße von 10 bis 30 mm aus dem Nickeloxiderz und

    einen Reduktionsschritt zur Heißreduktion des resultierenden Pellets in einem Schmelzofen,

    wobei der Pellet-Herstellungsschritt umfasst: Vermischen des Nickeloxiderzes mit mindestens einem kohlenstoffhaltigen Reduktionsmittel, wobei die zugemischte Menge an kohlenstoffhaltigem Reduktionsmittel so eingestellt ist, dass die Menge an Kohlenstoff 0,1 % oder mehr und 40 % oder weniger beträgt, wenn der kombinierte Gesamtbetrag an einem chemischen Äquivalent, das erforderlich ist zum Reduzieren von im resultierenden Pellet enthaltenen Nickeloxid in Nickelmetall, und einem chemischen Äquivalent, das erforderlich ist zum Reduzieren von in dem Pellet enthaltenen Eisenoxid in Eisenmetall und dann zum weiteren Reduzieren eines Teils des Eisenoxids in Eisenmetall, bis das Massenverhältnis von Eisen und Nickel in einer zu erhaltenden Eisen-Nickellegierung 80:20 beträgt, als 100 % angenommen wird, und Agglomerieren der resultierenden Mischung zum Bilden eines Pellets mit einer Pelletgröße von 10 bis 30 mm, und

    der Reduktionsschritt umfasst: vorheriges Bedecken des Ofenbodens des Schmelzofens mit einem kohlenstoffhaltigen Ofenboden-Reduktionsmittel in einer Menge, die ermöglicht, dass sich eine reduzierende Atmosphäre ausbildet, unter der sich auf dem Pellet bei der Reduktionswärmebehandlung eine Metallschale bildet und mit einer solchen Rate aufschmilzt, dass sie beim Austragen eines der Heißreduktion unterzogenen Pellets aus dem Ofen vor einem Einbringen des resultierenden Pellets in den Schmelzofen intakt bleibt, und Durchführen einer Reduktionswärmebehandlung bei einer Aufheiztemperatur von 1350°C oder darüber und 1550 °C oder darunter, wobei das Pellet auf das kohlenstoffhaltige Ofenboden-Reduktionsmittel aufgebracht ist.


     
    2. Verfahren zum Verhütten von Nickeloxiderz nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Temperatur, wenn das Pellet in den Schmelzofen eingebracht wird, 600 °C oder darunter beträgt.
     


    Revendications

    1. Procédé de fusion de minerai d'oxyde de nickel, dans lequel un pellet est formé à partir du minerai d'oxyde de nickel, et le pellet est réduit thermiquement pour obtenir un alliage fer-nickel avec une teneur en nickel de 4 % ou plus, le procédé comprenant :

    une étape de production de pellet pour produire un pellet ayant une taille de pellet de 10 à 30 mm à partir du minerai d'oxyde de nickel, et

    une étape de réduction pour réduire thermiquement dans un four de fusion le pellet obtenu,

    l'étape de production de pellet comprenant le mélange du minerai d'oxyde de nickel avec au moins un agent réducteur carboné, la quantité mélangée d'agent réducteur carboné étant réglée de telle sorte que la quantité de carbone soit de 0,1 % ou plus et 40 % ou moins quand la valeur combinée totale d'un équivalent chimique nécessaire pour réduire l'oxyde de nickel contenu dans le pellet obtenu en nickel et un équivalent chimique nécessaire pour réduire l'oxyde ferrique contenu dans ledit pellet en oxyde ferreux et pour réduire encore une partie de l'oxyde ferreux en fer jusqu'à ce que le rapport de fer et de nickel soit de 80:20 en masse dans un alliage fer-nickel à obtenir sont considérées comme 100 %, et l'agglomération du mélange obtenu pour former un pellet ayant une taille de pellet de 10 à 30 mm, et

    l'étape de réduction comprenant le recouvrement préalable de la sole du four de fusion avec un agent réducteur carboné de sole de four en une quantité adaptée pour établir une atmosphère de réduction dans laquelle une enveloppe de métal se forme sur le pellet pendant le traitement thermique de réduction et fond à un taux tel qu'elle reste intacte pendant le déchargement d'un pellet réduit thermiquement vers l'extérieur du four avant que le pellet obtenu ne soit chargé dans le four de fusion, et l'exécution d'un traitement thermique de réduction à une température de chauffage de 1350°C ou plus et de 1550°C ou moins avec le pellet chargé sur l'agent réducteur carboné de sole de four.


     
    2. Procédé de fusion de minerai d'oxyde de nickel selon la revendication 1, dans lequel la température, quand le pellet est chargé dans le four de fusion, est de 600°C ou moins.
     




    Drawing


















    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description