Hazer Group Ltd (ASX:HZR) has made a major breakthrough in successfully demonstrated on-line injection of iron ore catalyst into the Pre-Pilot Plant for its unique Hazer Process, marking a significant step towards de-risking the scale-up of the technology.
The Hazer Process enables the effective conversion of natural gas, and similar feedstocks, into hydrogen and high quality graphite, using iron ore as a process catalyst.
Hazer Group Managing Director Geoff Pocock said this represents the first time that fresh catalyst has been introduced to the reactor while maintaining temperature and pressure conditions for production of hydrogen and graphite, and is a key process condition necessary for continuous operation of the Hazer process.
These positive results have alleviated Hazer’s need to pursue the semi-continuous stage, where catalyst is injected prior to operation, and will enable Hazer to implement significant design improvements in the development of a next generation reactor system.
Hazer’s operations since commissioning the Pre-Pilot Plant have also demonstrated preliminary success in ejection of graphite from the reactor, thus partially demonstrating initial “fully continuous” operation.
The Pre-Pilot Plant has also generated valuable information on process operations, and has shown significant improvements across a range of parameters including run time, conversion rates, reaction selectivity and fluidisation behaviour.
This is a key achievement for the company, and we are extremely excited by this demonstration of catalyst addition while maintaining underlying reaction conditions,” Mr Pocock said.
“This milestone positions us for implementing further improvements in our next generation reactor design, and significantly de-risks the commercial implementation of the Hazer Process.”
Mr Pocock said graphite production volumes have increased by over 50% since commissioning, with peak production rates as high as 1kg per day of graphite and 0.35kg per day of hydrogen. Further design improvements are expected to increase these peak values as well as enable higher production rates for extended periods of time.
Initial operations have also seen production of raw graphite purity as high as 87%, in line with previous laboratory results, and with clear scope for improvement as reactor design is further optimised.
These initial purity levels are extremely encouraging, as Hazer previously demonstrated the production of 99.95% ultra – high purity synthetic graphite from raw graphite of similar purity levels (86%).
In addition, key physical characteristics of the graphite produced in the Pre – Pilot Plant are similar to that of previously produced, laboratory scale samples, and are within the range of characteristics for standard lithium – ion battery uses.
Gas analyses confirm that the Hazer process is highly selective towards the production of hydrogen and graphite as primary products, with very low production of unwanted by – products (including CO, CO 2 and other hydrocarbons).
“These results are highly encouraging as unwanted side reactions are a common problem in process scale up, especially as processes are taken out of laboratory settings. Side reactions and unwanted products can cause substantial downstream issues or process optimisation hurdles,” Mr Pocock says.
Hazer is now undertaking the design and implementation of a second – generation reactor system, with plans to implement these improvements in conjunction with a staged reactor scale-up process.
Mr Pocock said this second – generation Pre – Pilot Plant is anticipated to enable superior performance across a range of parameters including fluidisation performance, heat management necessary for increased graphite and hydrogen production and operating run times, as well as optimisation improvements to increase raw graphite purity.
These improvements and the commissioning of the second – generation reactor are expected to be completed in the middle of 2018.