Raipur. Vedanta Aluminum, India’s largest aluminum producer, has announced the development of an innovative process that will greatly help in reducing bauxite residue. Bauxite residue is colloquially called red mud. It comes out of the alumina refining process. The newly developed process reduces bauxite residue to an impressive figure of 30 percent. Under this, iron quantity is removed and at the same time high alumina yield is achieved. As a result, the total organic content of bauxite is reduced during alumina refining.
This process increases resource efficiency and reduces energy consumption during refining. This research project has been carried out by the Research and Development Department of the company in collaboration with the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. Lanjigarh, Odisha unit had a special contribution in this, where Vedanta has a world class alumina refinery. This cutting-edge development work will enhance the company’s operational excellence and have a lasting impact on the global aluminum industry.
Bauxite is the main ore for aluminum
Bauxite is the main ore for aluminium. Its refining process is called Bayer Process through which Alumina is produced. Aluminum is produced by electrolysis of alumina. In this refining process, bauxite residue comes out as a by-product. To make 1 kilogram of aluminium, 2 kilograms of alumina are required. To make this quantity of alumina, 6 kg of bauxite is consumed. During the process, 4 kg bauxite remains. Managing such large quantities of this by-product in a sustainable manner has long been a major challenge for the aluminum industry. Vedanta Aluminum is actively engaged in innovation to minimize red mud and explore ways to capture more aluminium. The new revolutionary process developed by the company has been successfully validated in the laboratory and patented. The company is currently focusing on setting up a pilot plant where the process will be implemented and evaluated as well as determine its potential benefits.
Operational efficiency is of particular importance in achieving sustainability.
Commenting on the achievement, Pal, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Alumina Business, Vedanta Limited, said, “Operational efficiency is of paramount importance to us in our journey to achieve sustainability at Vedanta Aluminium. Towards this goal, we are actively focusing on our internal research and development to pioneer technology-driven innovative solutions to current industry problems. Sharing his views on this development, Dr. Amit Chatterjee, Chief R&D Officer – Aluminum Business, Vedanta Limited, said, “We are poised to implement innovative processes for bauxite tailings management in our refinery operations. This is a special achievement that will contribute to reshaping the global aluminum industry by paving the way for better resource efficiency and energy conservation.
Inspiring commitment to research and development
Dr Chenna Rao Bora, Assistant Professor, Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Kharagpur, said, Vedanta Aluminum’s commitment towards research and development towards sustainability goals is truly inspiring. Reduction of red mud is one of the main challenges of the aluminum industry. This requires significant technological upgrades. This process has been developed through joint efforts of IIT Kharagpur and the company. This will not only improve red mud management but also reduce carbon emissions during the process.
Residue production can be reduced by implementing the new method
Vedanta Aluminum is the first company in the country to remove all the water from the bauxite tailings slurry and recycle it for operational use. In this way the company has shown its commitment towards water conservation by achieving Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD). The remaining bauxite residue is densely packed in dry form and stored in a specially constructed and scientifically managed concrete area called Bauxite Residue Reservoir. This containment method prevents the bauxite residue from dissolving in the groundwater. Vedanta Aluminum is the first company in the country to set up a Bauxite Residue Processing Plant for this processing purpose. By implementing the new method, waste production can be reduced. Additionally, Vedanta Aluminum is engaged in developing innovative technologies for utilization of bauxite tailings in active partnership with research institutes. These technologies also include beneficiation of bauxite tailings to enrich rare earth elements, recovery of alumina and iron, extraction and separation of titanium and rare earth elements (such as scandium). This effort is extremely important because bauxite tailings contain valuable metals including iron, alumina, rare earth elements and titanium dioxide.
The company is promoting the use of aluminum in various works.
Vedanta Aluminum, a unit of Vedanta Limited, is India’s largest aluminum producer. With production of 22.9 lakh tonnes in FY23, the company produced more than half of India’s total aluminium. It is a leader in value added aluminum products, which are used in many important industries. Vedanta Aluminum has received the second global ranking in the aluminum industry in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) 2022, a testament to its sustainable development practices. With its world-class Aluminum Smelters, Alumina Refinery and Power Plants across the country, the Company fulfills its mission to promote the use of Aluminum in various applications for a greener future and position it as the ‘Metal of the Future’.
The company has received the title of ‘The Institute of Eminence’.
Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur is a higher educational institution known for producing qualified professionals for industry across the world. This institution of excellence in education is a leader in developing cost-effective technology innovations. It was established in 1951 as an Institute of National Importance in a detention camp. Today this institute is ranked among the top five institutes of India and in 2019 it was awarded the title of ‘The Institute of Eminence’ by the Government of India. The institute has been involved in many international and national mission projects. Its ranking in research output has also been consistently good. There are 19 academic departments, 12 schools, 18 centers (of which 5 are centers of excellence) and 2 academies. This tree-filled campus is spread over 2100 acres and more than 15,720 students study here. At present there are more than 810 faculty, more than 880 employees and more than 1270 projects.