CSIRO Develops Green Phosphate-smelting Process

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has developed a smelting process that produces soluble phosphate from low-value ores.

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has developed a smelting process that produces soluble phosphate from low-value ores.

The newly developed process, dubbed PyroPhos, eliminates hazardous waste and provides a “simpler, safer and more efficient” alternative to the standard process of phosphate production.

“The PyroPhos smelting process uses high temperature to extract phosphate from ores, producing prized phosphate feedstock and a glassy gravel that can be used in road base construction and Portland cement,” CSIRO Team Leader Keith Barnard said in a statement.

“A major benefit of the process is that is can be used on lower grade ores giving phosphate miners and processors the opportunity to increase their productivity in an environmentally sustainable way.”

Phosphate is often used for fertilizers and as an animal feed supplement, as its primary function is to support strong cell development and water retention.

According to CSIRO, the global market for phosphate currently sits at AU$73 billion as continued population growth contributes to higher demand for food production.

While the PyroPhos process belongs to Process Capital subsidiary PyroPhos, the technology behind it stems from the research that went into CSIRO’s SiroSmelt process, which began development in 1970.

“Our networks and investor base give us the ability to connect PyroPhos technology to the global phosphate industry,” PyroPhos Director Mark Muzzin said. “We have had an excellent response from the industry and believe it has the ability to make a major impact.”

Phosphate as a mineral is not soluble, making it difficult for plants to access in its naturally found form. As such, phosphate rock is converted to phosphoric acid, the latter of which is used to make fertilizer and is produced at chemical processing plants.

According to the latest report on phosphate rock from the US Geological Survey, China was the world’s largest producer of the fertilizer-friendly commodity in 2017 at 140 million metric tons (MT).

Meanwhile, Morocco and the Western Sahara were docketed as having the world’s largest reserves at 50 million MT out of the world’s 70 million MT total reserves.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Olivia Da Silva, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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