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Study of the bacterial microenvironment in a bioleaching stirred tank bioreactor : transport phenomena and kinetic modelling in three-phase flow

  • Chéron, Jonathan
Publication Date
Oct 08, 2021
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Extractive bioleaching is a range of technologies aiming at recovering metals contained in mineral resources using biological means. It was successfully implemented at the industrial scale and used either in the form of dump or heap treatments, or by using large-scale stirred tank reactors (STR). Recently, bioleaching is evolving towards the exploitation of unusual resources (very low-grades, complex mineralogy, or high sulphur content) caused by the declining trend in mean ore grades. Bioleaching STR have proven to be more efficient than the dump or heap treatments for the treatment of high-value resources (such as refractory gold ores) mainly thanks to the better control over the process. However, it still needs further technical optimization to reach economic viability in the case of unconventional resources. In this PhD work, a coupled bioleaching STR hydrokinetic model was developed to model and simulate the bacterial microenvironment / response to the local heterogeneities of the tank in order to establish optimization criteria. First, an experimental study was performed at laboratory-scale to obtain the data necessary for the calibration of the various models. This includes bioleaching tests in STR to gather kinetics parameters and abiotic studies to determine essential hydrodynamics parameters (Njs, kla). On a second study, a multi-scale solid-liquid CFD model was developed and simulated using various conditions of impeller geometries, solid concentrations, and agitation rates. The impact of these conditions on solid homogeneity and particle stress was assessed and basic sizing rules were extrapolated from the results. Lastly, a hydro-kinetic model of a multi-scale bioleaching STR was developed. For this, a CFD model describing the gas-liquid flow was developed and simplified using a compartment approach. This approach was modelled on MatLab and combined with previous results on kinetic and solid-liquid models. Finally, the compartment hydro-kinetic model was used to characterize the kinetics of bioleaching and was compared with experimental data.

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