Metso Insights Blog Mining and metals blog Outotec Research Center – 70 years of technology advancement for the benefit of our customers
Metals refining
Dec 11, 2019

Outotec Research Center – 70 years of technology advancement for the benefit of our customers

Geologists say that no two ore deposits are alike, but that’s also true of metallurgical plants. Even in similar operating conditions, minor differences in raw materials or variation in throughput can significantly affect plant performance. That’s why even successful solutions cannot be copied mechanically without initial testing and adjustment to the customer’s specific conditions. At Outotec, we understand the importance of tailoring process solutions to the needs of our customers, with much of the work carried out in our own Outotec Research Center (ORC) in Pori.
Outotec research center

Established in 1949, the ORC is the birthplace of such innovative hydrometallurgical technologies as VSF Solvent ExtractionZinc Direct Leaching and the Outotec Lithium Hydroxide Process to name just a few. Along with developing new technologies, special importance is given to continuously improving products in our portfolio – OKTOP reactors and agitators, solvent extraction equipment, and enhanced coatings for titanium anodes, for example. Today, the ORC is a unique industrial R&D facility that operates 24/7 all year round and is one of the few labs globally capable of simulating every step of complex hydrometallurgical processes. This is made possible thanks to our specialized state-of-the-art laboratories. Below is an overview of the capabilities of the ORC:

  • Hydrometallurgy lab equipped with automatic data collection and process control system, where the majority of bench-scale reactor (up to 20 liters in volume), leaching, and precipitation experiments are performed
  • Cyanidation lab, where the leaching of precious metals is tested under controlled conditions to minimize occupational risks and hazards related to cyanide exposure
  • Solvent extraction lab capable of simulating 15 stages of the SX process simultaneously
  • Fluid dynamics lab, where the prototypes of new OKTOP reactors and agitators are compared with the results of CFD modeling in close-to-real process conditions
  • Electrochemistry lab, which is crucial for the development and constant improvement of our coated titanium anodes and their lifecycle testing, but is also used for fundamental studies about new electrochemical processes
  • Pilot plant facility, providing reliable results for demanding customer challenges

Supported by a modern in-house analytical laboratory that runs chemical assays, the ORC can handle anything from simple batch tests through to comprehensive process simulation, as well as more sophisticated testing including mineral processing or pyrometallurgical treatment.

Besides developing improvements to existing products and technologies as well as explorative and fundamental research, our major efforts are directed towards customers’ projects (either individual equipment or whole plants). We provide a complete suite of services for customers’ new plant start-ups or upgrades. Our team contributes to all project stages, from conceptual studies and testing through to basic engineering and feasibility studies, while also offering advisory services and technical support during plant start-up and beyond.

The ORC team’s involvement usually starts early in the project with metallurgical testing and feed analysis of customers’ ore samples to identify possible processing routes. Based on these results, various flowsheet options are modeled with the help of Outotec HSC Chemistry software and then tested in research labs and the pilot plant to verify the optimal approach and deliver the best solution. Finally, when the equipment is installed at the customer’s site, we are often invited to supervise the commissioning and start-up and troubleshoot possible issues. In recent years, our experts have participated in plant start-ups in countries around the world, including Mexico, Turkey, and Norway, among others.

With our rich history and 70 years of experience, the ORC is also very much focused on designing for the future. Battery metals are taking an increasing amount of our research, analysis, and simulation time and expertise. Universities, state institutes, and R&D bodies are also working with the ORC in publicly funded projects to help develop and optimize future breakthrough processes and technologies.

Metals refining