Innovation Metals Completes Initial Extraction-Rate Testing of the RapidSX Tech for RareEarth Elements Separation
KPM technicians operating the RapidSX™ test platform during REE extraction-rate testing. The test was conducted on June 28, 2021, at IMC’s RapidSX Commercialization Development Facility in Kingston, Ontario.
Ucore Rare Metals is very pleased to announce that the Company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Innovation Metals Corp. has successfully completed initial extraction-rate testing of its proprietary RapidSX separation technology and to provide an update on the company’s RapidSX commercialization demonstration program and related timelines.
Being a key technical milestone in the commercialization of RapidSX, the extraction-rate testing quantitatively confirmed the ability of the technology to rapidly extract rare-earth elements (REEs) from an initial REE feedstock using a standard extractant, at rates at least ten times faster than conventional solvent extraction (SX) technology.
“The IMC team continues to make great strides in the RapidSX technology commercial deployment effort,” says Pat Ryan, Ucore Chairman and CEO. “This latest round of extraction-rate testing foreshadows the expected results as we embark on an Independent Evaluation of the RapidSX technology at the Kingston facility which will take place over the summer months of 2021. This Independent Evaluation will be conducted by the scientific team at Kingston Process Metallurgy under the supervision and direction of an independent third party who will report on the findings.”
RapidSX Extraction-Rate Testing
The rate of extraction is an important contributor to the final design of the individual columns that will be used in RapidSX-based SX circuits, influencing their overall size when deploying the technology for particular applications. The recent testing looked at the effects of flow rate and residence time on the rate of extraction from a mixed REE solution.
The initial quantitative test results using a standard, commercial extractant for REEs indicate that the rate of mass transfer during operation of the RapidSX columns is at least one order-of-magnitude higher than that which occurs with the use of mixer-settler units for conventional SX extraction of REEs from solutions, i.e., at least ten times faster.
IMC Chairman, CEO and Co-founder, Dr. Gareth Hatch, says, “The results of the initial extraction-rate testing for the current RapidSX columns are highly encouraging. Additional extraction-rate testing to validate and optimize platform parameters will be undertaken in the coming weeks, as IMC finalizes the design of the physical RapidSX hardware for deployment in IMC’s forthcoming RapidSX Demonstration Plant. Additional extraction-rate testing will also be utilized to look at the influence of alternative extractants, currently being evaluated via equilibrium isotherm work.”
Finalization of RapidSX Column Design
In addition to the initial extraction-rate testing, IMC has been working to finalize the individual physical RapidSX column assembly design so that it will be suitable for commercial deployment. Computational fluid dynamics software has been used to model fluid flows to subsequently fine-tune the design of certain components that will be utilized in the physical column assemblies.
Final column designs for the RapidSX Demonstration Plant are in the process of completion and will be tested in a demo-scale module ahead of construction of the Demo Plant, to empirically confirm effectiveness, at IMC’s RapidSX Commercialization Development Facility (CDF) in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
Commercialization of the RapidSX Technology
IMC’s ongoing commercialization work for the processing of REE feedstocks using RapidSX has now converged to simultaneous commercial hardware and software development. Together, these two initiatives will underpin the deployment of the RapidSX technology at commercial scale.
RapidSX Commercial Hardware Platform Development
The hardware platform development focuses on all of the physical hardware that is required for utilization of the RapidSX technology. This includes the proprietary RapidSX columns, as well as the supporting instrumentation, controls, sensors, piping, pumps, and all other physical equipment required.
Wherever possible, IMC will utilize the same hardware components in the forthcoming Demo Plant, as those that will be deployed at commercial scale. This will allow the Company to operate a Demo Plant at the CDF—scheduled for construction and commissioning later this year—that will very much look and feel like a full-scale, commercial facility.
Left-side elevation of a commercial-scale RapidSX multi-stage circuit for REE separation, under development for the forthcoming RapidSX Demonstration Plant.
RapidSX Commercial Software Tool Development
In parallel to the RapidSX hardware development work, IMC’s technical team is focused on the development of a proprietary RapidSX software tool to instruct and control the hardware platform during operation. At the heart of this software tool will be the mathematical model previously disclosed by IMC, which will utilize the empirical REE extraction and separation data generated by IMC over the past several months, from a number of REE feedstocks.
Once complete, the integrated software tool will work in concert with the hardware platform to provide near real-time adjustments to variations in feed and flow parameters, as appropriate. The same tool will also be responsible for determining the optimal metallurgical flowsheet for specific mixed REE concentrate feedstocks (input) and the specific REE oxides to be produced (output). This dictates the configuration and staging of the RapidSX hardware and controls the hardware platform. The software tool will allow IMC to analyze numerous flowsheet scenarios to achieve cost optimization, without the need for onerous and time-consuming “wet chemistry” development work.
For more information on IMC’s RapidSX commercialization development, please refer to the following IMC video: ‘Dr. Hatch discusses the commercialization-development program for the RapidSX™ separation technology‘.
RapidSX Commercialization Timeline
As announced on January 29, 2021, and May 4, 2021, the commissioning of IMC’s RapidSX Demo Plant is scheduled to commence in late Q3/early Q4 2021, with a comprehensive, independent techno-economic study and the design of a commercial-scale REE separation facility, both planned for completion by Q1 2022. With the anticipated ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Demo Plant on currently available REE feedstocks,
IMC expects the RapidSX technology to be ready for commercial adoption and implementation in less than 12 months (in Q2/Q3 2022), via revenue-producing licensing agreements with strategically selected IMC customers.
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