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Thread: Heyl & Patterson: Drying Potash Leads to the Highest Quality Final Product

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    Heyl & Patterson: Drying Potash Leads to the Highest Quality Final Product

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    Drying Potash Leads to the Highest Quality Final Product

    by David Phillips
    Heyl & Patterson, USA

    Mined and manufactured salts containing water-soluble potassium are known as potash. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the primary means of obtaining it was by using water in a pot to leach it from wood ash, hence the name "potash." In fact, the scientific name "potassium" was derived from the word. It is now mined from ancient marine seas where it is found in abundance, occurring naturally as potassium salts, or as we know it, "table salt." Potash is then processed from potassium compounds and potassium-bearing materials, usually as potassium chloride. This salt is separated from the potash and used for a variety of salts -- table salt, livestock salt, water softener, and road de-icer.

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    Potash exists in huge deposits in Central Canada and in the north and central part of the United States, most notably the Permian Basin. It is also found in other nations worldwide such as Russia, China, Germany and Belarus. In many of these places, the potassium salts have crystallized into vast beds of potash ore. These quantities are so vast that the planet will not run out of it for centuries to come, which is favorable because of how heavily people rely upon it in their everyday lives.

    Global demand for this mineral fuels potash processing to over 30 million tons per year, and is mostly used in agricultural fertilizers. Potash is most widely used as an inexpensive, nearly inexhaustible supply of conditioner for crops, and is by far the single largest use of potassium in the world. However, it is also used in several other industries, including glass manufacturing, soaps, plastics and pharmaceuticals.

    Potassium is a major plant and crop nutrient, after nitrogen and phosphorus. As a fertilizer, it dissolves readily in water and is available almost immediately for plant growth. Since it is an abundant and naturally occurring mineral, it is environmentally safe to use in moderation, but like anything else, it does more harm than good if overused.

    There are several reasons why potash makes a good fertilizer:

    • Potash improves water retention in biomass. Plants transpire more rapidly without it, and need more water to stay hydrated.

    • It also produces much higher yielding plants with substantially higher nutrient value than are common of wild-grown varieties.

    • It improves taste, color and texture of food crops. These qualities are dramatically enhanced by using potash properly for fertilizing agriculture.

    • The addition of potash to soil significantly helps to produce disease resistant crops, and is widely used in fruit and vegetable production for this quality alone.

    Since naturally occurring potassium chlorides and sodium chlorides are buried deep in the earth, typical shaft mining is one method for extraction. Hot water is sometimes used to dissolve it into a solution that can then be pumped to the surface. Less often, the mineral is obtained during strip mine operations. These less abundant reserves are situated horizontally and offer easier access for mining equipment. Through mineral processing, the raw ore is ground into a powder to release potash and common salt crystals, which are then combined with water and process reagents to form a brine slurry that will separate the potash from the salt. Once this is done, drying potash becomes a key step in the process.

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    Heyl & Patterson Fluid Bed Dryer

    All of the positive qualities listed above would not be possible without an effective potash drying system. A fluid bed dryer can be used to efficiently process this highly versatile mineral. Drying potash results in an ideal final product, with minimal moisture and clumping.

    In a fluid bed, potash is suspended and completely surrounded by a rising gas stream and is made to act like a fluid. Besides keeping the material in a seemingly liquid state, the gas stream is the media for heat and mass exchange. As a result of the intimate gas-solids contact, very high rates of heat transfer are accomplished while gently handling the ore. The bedplate or grid provides for the uniform distribution of the gas stream during operation, and supports the bed of material during shutdown. The final product moisture is a function of retention time and product temperature.

    Heyl & Patterson fluid bed dryers are among the most efficient and cost-effective dryers on the market. The company has conventional designs available for powders and granular materials, as well as unique designs for materials that are not normally conducive to fluidized bed processing, such as sludges, filter cakes and agglomerates. Factors such as particle size distribution and weight, starting and final moisture content, product temperature, drying air temperature, air velocity and retention time are all considered in the specifications

    Best of all, there are no moving parts inside the fluid bed, so maintenance costs are greatly reduced compared to other systems. Various applications and designs can be tested at Heyl & Patterson's pilot plant laboratory.

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    Last edited by Author; 18th June 2015 at 16:54.

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