September 3, 2019
6th International Secondary Lead Conference — the first day
Reportage: Brian Wilson
Mark Stevenson, the chair of the ISLC, opened proceedings on Monday September 2 at 9am sharp promising saying there would be a range of papers and workshops covering virtually every aspect of secondary lead operations that impact not only Asia, but the global lead industry now and in the future.
Looking back, at the end of the first day, he clearly delivered on much of the promise. Andy Bush, head of the International Lead Association chaired the first session.
Huw Roberts, director of CHR Metals, while pointing out to delegates the strength of the lead battery market in Asia and globally, was quick to highlight the fact that the lead consumption figures were undoubtedly an underestimate by several thousand metric tons. This is because calculations for lead consumption, based on end usage, shows that more lead is consumed than officially recorded
This leads to the conclusion that a significant amount of lead is recycled in the informal sector and is still finding its way into licensed battery manufacturers.
Indeed, the Achilles heel of the ULAB recycling sector, informal operations, was in certain countries, a significant player, and at a time when the contribution of secondary lead to the global lead market has risen to about 75%.
There is no doubt that China is the dominant market for lead consumption with 42% of global production, that breaks down to 65% of primary lead and 29% of secondary lead production worldwide.
The percentage of global production has fallen over the past few years from about 50%, mainly due to changes in e-bike legislation that has imposed speed and weight restrictions on new sales.
This has led to a decline in e-bike sales and undoubtedly the e-bike boom has peaked.
Nevertheless, Dong Li, the chairman of Leoch Batteries, explained that in his view and the industry in China, this was a temporary drop in lead consumption and with continued grown in vehicle ownership, lead production and consumption would certainly increase in the coming years.
In anticipation of the expected rise in demand, there were now 64 licensed Chinese smelters with a capacity of 9 million tons of lead annually, an overcapacity. New mined primary lead sources were also being developed in Mongolia.
The lead Industry is one of the most regulated in the world and Steve Binks, the ILA’s regulatory director outlined to delegates the legislative program for the control and monitoring of hazardous substances being implemented in the European Union.
The reason the EU program is relevant to Asia is that history has shown that restrictions and prohibitions introduced in Europe are often followed in North America and Asia.
Binks explained that the legislative program also posed a threat to the lead battery market, not because the industry could not comply, but more so because users of lead batteries might be tempted to move to competing battery technologies to avoid any involvement with the lead industry.
Binks went on to explain that the industry in North America and Europe was preparing for the challenges ahead and that the main trade and industry associations — the ILA, EUROBAT and the BCI — would shortly be launching a major initiative on product stewardship and the environmentally sound management of the battery value chain within the circular economy.
India is one of the major consumers of lead in Asia and Pugazhenthy Lakshmanan, better known to the world as “Pug”, head of the India’s Lead and Zinc Development Association explained to the delegates that the past two years had been an up-and-down period of uncertainty for the lead industry in India.
The car and motorbike manufacturing businesses had seen a downturn in sales as a consequence of the government’s promotion of a policy to move to all electric vehicles by 2030 in an attempt to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuel.
However, the vehicle manufacturing companies then lobbied the government to explain how difficult it would it would be to introduce the necessary infrastructure to support an all electric system in a country the size of India with vehicles that had a range of only 400 kilometres at most.
Realising the enormity of the task ahead and the expense, the government has recently amended the policy to one of co-existence between the EV and gasoline vehicles.
On a more positive note, Pug also outlined the government’s extensive green energy program that will certainly create a huge demand for lead battery storage banks.
It was obvious from the reaction of the delegates that nobody in the plenary realized how much lead could be recovered from furnace residues and discarded by-products, and not only from the lead Industry, but from dusts produced and dumped by the steel, zinc and copper industries as well.
Juergen Antrekowitsch, an associate professor from the University of Leobon told delegates that his research and the processes developed at the university had led him to the conclusion that annually as much as 500,000 metric tons of lead could be recovered economically from steel dust and about 400,000 million tonnes from zinc residues, that is, approximately 2% of global lead production and the cost, just $20 per ton. No doubt, this presentation will be of interest to recyclers.
Athan Fox, chief technology and innovations officer with Aurelius Environmental, gave delegates an update on recent developments in the promotion and adoption of the company’s hydro-metallurgical ULAB recovery process.
Indeed, the company and the process have moved on and with a demonstration project in South Africa and other developments in South America and the UK, the company was now able to provide estimates for capital investment and running costs, that would appear, on the face of it, to be competitive with traditional pyro-metallurgical processes — but without the emission issues. Of particular interest to integrated companies, was the suggestion that the production of fine grain lead oxides would increase charge capacity.
As every furnace operator knows, one of the most important requirements for continuous production is the refractories and Herman Wijaya Santoso, sales manager from Harbison Walker International, explained how the various blends of refractory materials affected their resistance to corrosion, thermal wear and shock and ultimately, long maintenance free life.
The afternoon session opened with a technical workshop presented by Sander Arnout, the managing director of InsPyro. This workshop, a follow-up to the session at the previous secondary lead conference two years in Kuala Lumpur, was based on the thermodynamics of the pyro-metallurgical recycling process.
Sander told delegates how to maximise the recovery of lead from ULAB using the Gibbs Energy Mathematical Framework, in conjunction with the Ellingham and Yazawa diagrams.
Sander also explained how the recycling process could be controlled by following the sulfur removal and structuring the slag produced.
The afternoon session continued with a presentation by Ola Hekselman, a research associate with Imperial College, London. Hekselman introduced delegates to a new and innovative hydro-metallurgical ULAB recycling process using a mix of deep eutectic solvents that can recover lead from either desulfurized or non-desulfurized paste.
This cuts out a key process in the traditional recycling process. Hekselman emphasized that the process was in the early stages of development and the university were looking for industry partners.
Vijay Parek, vice president with Gravita India presented delegates with the journey the company had made from being just one of many ULAB recycling companies in India to being one of the best and most respected recycling operations. Parek said this transition to a holistic approach had transformed every aspect of the business and paramount was the care of employees and the environment.
Furthermore, having achieved recognition by the ILA for the progress made in the management of occupational health, safety and the environment, the company had now embarked on a program to bring all the company operations around the world up to the same standard and comparable with best global practice.
Personal hygiene has for a long time been a key issue when considering measures necessary to control occupational lead exposure and Dan Askin, president of ESCA Tech, presented an illustrated series of slides demonstrating how important it is that worker’s clothing does not become contaminated. Most importantly it was to ensure that workers and contractors do not take home any lead dust on their clothes or shoes.
The first day’s session closed with a presentation by Genaro Guinto, a combustion applications engineer with Air Liquide. Genaro explained that oxygen enrichment of the burner systems for furnace operations reduces fuel consumption, but has significant environmental benefits, because NOxgases are reduced to virtually zero and CO2by about 60%.
Furthermore, oxygen enrichment burners can be supplied to suit all fuel supplies, from natural gas to reclaimed fuel oil.
In the evening, delegates were entertained with a traditional Indonesian meal on the beach.