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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717


NGUYEN, T.V.; FARROW, J.B.; SMITH, J.  and  FAWELL, P.D.. Design and development of a novel thickener feedwell using computational fluid dynamics. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, n.11, suppl., pp. 939-948. ISSN 2411-9717.

The feedwell performance in gravity thickeners and clarifiers relies on the efficient mixing between solid particles and flocculant to achieve effective flocculation, as well as energy dissipation of the incoming feed stream. A population balance-computational fluid dynamics (PB-CFD) model has been developed and validated to provide new insights into the operation and performance of industrial feedwells. In particular, the PB-CFD model enables the efficacy of the main functions of a feedwell to be investigated for a wide range of feedwell designs and process conditions. This paper describes how PB-CFD was used in the design and development of a new feedwell concept for the flocculation of particles in a solid-liquid stream. The patented feedwell design includes an upwardly converging flow diverter to create two separate compartments for energy dissipation and flocculation. PB-CFD simulations of this simple and easy-to-retrofit feedwell design illustrate a superior performance in terms of flocculation and energy dissipation compared to typical feedwells over a wide range of flow conditions. The potential benefits include reduced flocculant consumption, better de-aeration, greater stability and the ability to cope with a wider variation in volumetric throughput, better flocculation and fines capture, and a more symmetrical discharge that may also offer improved overflow clarity in some applications. The new feedwell design has been installed in a full-scale thickener at an Anglo American Platinum site in South Africa. A number of operational factors complicate this application, but indications are that the new feedwell has led to improvements in stability and underflow properties.

Keywords : thickener; feedwell design; flocculation; energy dissipation; computational fluid dynamics; simulation..

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