perfecting magnesium manufacture
 

Magnesium Metal


 
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About Carbothermal Reduction (CTR)

CTR is a process method to make magnesium. It hasn’t been commercially relevant for over 70 years. We’re bringing it back.

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impact: automotive light-weighting

The use of magnesium in light-weighting applications has been limited due to high prices and lack of regional supply sources. Explore the implications of widespread Mg use in the automotive sector.

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Buy magnesium

Ingots, granules, powders, alloys, and ultra-high purity magnesium metal.

Let’s make what you need.

 All metal powders are flammable. Sure, magnesium has a sparkling reputation. When alloyed properly with tight impurity specifications, magnesium is safe to use for any purpose from airplanes to engine blocks.

Carbothermal Reduction (CTR)

ORE + CARBON + HEAT = MG METAL

The CTR process is a direct route to producing magnesium metal. It is conceptually simpler, less energy intensive, and uses fewer steps.

In the CTR process, Mg is extracted as a gas. To create an ingot, this gas must be cooled to condense the Mg. Historically, this chemistry has been difficult to implement because, during the condensation process, some of the Mg would oxidize and form impure powders. These powders presented extreme handling risks and required enormous effort to purify and form into bulk ingot.

Big Blue Technologies’ process, in contrast, captures the gaseous magnesium in a different manner: by condensing onto a recycled medium. Using this technique, we can safely recover Mg and produce ingots with less effort.

Big Blue Technologies, in collaboration with the University of Colorado at Boulder, has developed and tested this technique to improve Mg recovery and overall process economics. We are actively showcasing our pilot ore-to-ingot carbothermic process technology and validating our techno-economic analyses.

In summary, Big Blue Technologies’ CTR process has the following benefits:

  • SINGLE-STEP, DIRECT REDUCTION

  • LESS ENERGY

  • LESS LABOR

  • LESS WASTE

  • FEWER EMISSIONS

  • CHEAP REDUCTANT

  • LOW CAPITAL INTENSITY

  • MODULAR CAPACITY INCREASES

 

OTHER THERMAL PROCESSES

About 85% of the world’s magnesium is currently made in China using an indirect route known as the Pidgeon process. Pidgeon is a silicothermic process pathway that requires the use of ferrosilicon. Ferrosilicon is produced by heating carbon with silica and iron, thus requiring two major steps.

China’s mining, labor, and energy rates are highly subsidized to drive the cost floor far below their competitors. Because of Pidgeon’s high energy and labor burden, this process is prohibitively expensive to implement in Europe and North America.

However, the low initial capital cost of Pidgeon plants makes them attractive for rapid implementation.

Overall, due to this global supply imbalance and the environmental impact of Pidgeon processes, the need for new, low-capital alternatives has never been more vital.

ELECTROLYTIC PROCESSING

Electrolysis of magnesium chloride is performed industrially in the U.S., Israel, and Russia. Electrolytic processes require enormous capital investments, chlorine gas handling operations, and expensive dehydration techniques. Yet, most electrolytic processes have substantially less emissions and waste than Pidgeon.

North America has witnessed three major electrolytic plant closures or failures over the past 25 years. Total global market share for electrolytic processes has fallen from 75% to less than 15% since 1998.

Today, China is commissioning a large electrolytic facility as a means of replacing much of their Pidgeon-based capacity. After driving away competitors with cheap Pidgeon magnesium, China is now planning on using the technology that could not compete because of the heavy environmental toll from Pidgeon processing.


Production Costs of Primary Magnesium Metal Processes

One of the biggest challenges facing the magnesium metal supply industry is the lack of available process technologies. When considering a new plant in Europe or North America using conventional silicothermic or electrolytic methods, the basic cost structures are categorically uneconomical with respect to global pricing.

The only way to create a solid anchoring supply industry is to innovate new process technologies.

Development timelines are long, the know-how and expertise are limited, and few have succeeded in bringing to market new industrial process technologies for metals.

Big Blue Technologies’ approach to process development includes rigorous technical de-risking during a lean scale-up routine to avoid process changes at a full plant scale.

By reducing the footprint, environmental impact, and capital burden, Big Blue Technologies’ carbothermic process is well-positioned to reshape an archaic magnesium landscape.


Mg is the 8th most common element in the earth’s crust (including seawater), and is “virtually inexhaustible” (USGS). Finding a suitable ore source is a non-issue; there are simply no suitable technologies to extract metal.


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costs source: Sujit Das. “Magnesium for automotive applications: Primary process cost assessment.” JOM, 55(2003).

prices source: “Magnesium Metal.” U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, February 2019.

 

 Papers and Patents

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"Pressure dependent kinetics of magnesium oxide carbothermal reduction." Thermochimica acta 636 (2016): 23-32.

"A novel experimental method to study metal vapor condensation/oxidation: Mg in CO and CO2 at reduced pressures." Solar Energy 139 (2016): 389-397.

"Enhancing the rate of magnesium oxide carbothermal reduction by catalysis, milling, and vacuum operation." Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 56.46 (2017): 13602-13609.

"Experimental investigation of continuous magnesium production by carbothermal reduction." Magnesium Technology 2017. Springer, Cham, 2017. 199-202.

"Design and Fabrication of Pellets for Magnesium Production by Carbothermal Reduction." Metallurgical and Materials Transactions B 49.5 (2018): 2209-2218.

"Carbothermal reduction of magnesia in a vacuum solar-simulated thermogravimeter." 144th Annual TMS Meeting & Exhibition. 144th Annual TMS Meeting & Exhibition, 2015.

"Investigation of continuous carbothermal reduction of magnesia by magnesium vapor condensation onto a moving bed of solid particles." Powder Technology (2019).

"Apparatus and method for recovery of material." U.S. Patent Application No. 15/741,159.

"Carbothermal reduction reactor system, components thereof, and methods of using same." U.S. Patent Application No. 14/915,573.