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Column Flotation Cell

Operating and
Maintenance Manual
Prepared By:

Canadian Process Technologies Inc.


1636 West 75th Avenue
Vancouver, B.C.
Canada V6P 6G2
Tel:

+1

604

264

5610

Fax:

+1

604

264

5555

Email: cpt@cpti.bc.ca
URL:

http://www.cpti.bc.ca

May 2002

Column Cell

CPT Inc.

Operating & Maintenance Manual

The purpose of this manual is to provide an overall guide to column flotation technology along with
detailed operating instructions for the CPT Flotation Column and the SlamJet Gas Sparging
System. This manual has been divided into seven sections as follows;
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Introduction
Column Operation
Instrumentation and Control
System Maintenance
Collection Zone Theory
Froth Zone Theory
Production Column Testwork

Companion Manual
SlamJet Operating and Maintenance Manual
including the following sections;
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Introduction
Components
Installation
Operation
Maintenance
Control System
Cracking Pressure Adjustment
SlamJet Repair Procedures

CPT Inc.

Column Cell

Operating & Maintenance Manual

TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.0
1.1
1.2

INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................... 1
DESCRIPTION OF A FLOTATION COLUMN ...................................................................................... 1
SlamJet DESCRIPTION ............................................................ERROR! BOOKMARK NOT DEFINED.

1.3
GLOSSARY OF COLUMN FLOTATION TERMINOLOGY ..................................................................... 4
1.3.1
Bias ................................................................................................................................... 4
1.3.2
Carrying Capacity ............................................................................................................. 5
1.3.3
Difference Wash ............................................................................................................... 5
1.3.4
Displacement Wash.......................................................................................................... 5
1.3.5
Entrainment....................................................................................................................... 5
1.3.6
Flow Conventions ............................................................................................................. 5
1.3.7
Gas Holdup ....................................................................................................................... 5
1.3.8
Air Sparger........................................................................................................................ 6
1.3.9
Superficial Velocities......................................................................................................... 6
1.4
1.4

2.0

TERMS ....................................................................................................................................... 6
WASH WATER ............................................................................................................................ 7

COLUMN OPERATION ................................................................................................ 8

2.1
INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................... 8
2.2
COLUMN KEY ............................................................................................................................. 8
2.3
COLUMN START-UP .................................................................................................................... 8
2.3.1
Start-up Options................................................................................................................ 8
2.3.2
Set-up ............................................................................................................................... 9
2.3.3
Sparger Check .................................................................................................................. 9
2.3.4
Pressurise the Flowmeters ............................................................................................... 9
2.3.5
Air Line Checks............................................................................................................... 10
2.3.6
Sparger Air Pressurisation.............................................................................................. 10
2.3.7
Sparger Hose Connections............................................................................................. 10
2.3.8
Wash Water Check......................................................................................................... 10
2.3.9
Gas Holdup Calibration................................................................................................... 11
2.3.10 Empty Column Start-up .................................................................................................. 11
2.3.11 Check Launder Sprays ................................................................................................... 12
2.3.12 Starting of Slurry Flows................................................................................................... 12
2.3.13 Oil in Sparger Air Supply ................................................................................................ 13
2.4
COLUMN SHUTDOWN ......................................................................................................... 13
2.4.1
Emergency Shutdown..................................................................................................... 13
2.4.2
Initial Procedure .............................................................................................................. 13
2.4.3
Final Procedure............................................................................................................... 13
2.4.4
Short Term Shutdown..................................................................................................... 13
2.4.5
Long Term Shutdown ..................................................................................................... 13
2.4.6
Power Failure Shutdown................................................................................................. 14
2.5
COLUMN RE-START FOLLOWING SHUTDOWN ............................................................................ 14
2.5.1
Re-Pulping ...................................................................................................................... 14
2.5.2
Re-Starting Underflow .................................................................................................... 14

CPT Inc.

Column Cell

Operating & Maintenance Manual

OPERATING GUIDES ................................................................................................................. 15


2.6
2.6.1
Sparger Air...................................................................................................................... 15
2.6.2
Interface Level ................................................................................................................ 15
2.6.3
Wash Water .................................................................................................................... 16
2.6.4
Wash Water Bias ............................................................................................................ 16
2.6.5
Reagent Dosage ............................................................................................................. 16
2.7
TROUBLESHOOTING .......................................................................................................... 17
2.7.1
Is Froth Purity Low? ........................................................................................................ 17
2.7.2
Is Flotation Recovery Low? ............................................................................................ 17

3.0
3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4
3.5

4.0

INSTRUMENTATION AND CONTROL ...................................................................... 19


INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................... 19
SPARGER PRESSURE ............................................................................................................... 19
SPARGER AIR FLOW ................................................................................................................. 19
COLUMN INTERFACE LEVEL ...................................................................................................... 20
WASH WATER .......................................................................................................................... 20

SYSTEM MAINTENANCE .......................................................................................... 21

4.1
INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................... 21
4.2
COLUMN MAINTENANCE............................................................................................................ 21
4.3
SPARGER MAINTENANCE .......................................................................................................... 22
4.3.1
Orifice Wear .................................................................................................................... 22
4.3.2
Tip Blockage ................................................................................................................... 22
4.3.3
External Scaling .............................................................................................................. 22
4.3.4
Sparger Removal ............................................................................................................ 23
4.3.5
Poor Air Distribution ........................................................................................................ 24
4.4

5.0

COMPRESSOR AND AIR LINES ................................................................................................... 24

COLLECTION ZONE THEORY .................................................................................. 25

5.1
INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................... 25
5.2
RESIDENCE TIME ...................................................................................................................... 25
5.2.1
Column Volume .............................................................................................................. 26
5.2.2
Gas Holdup ..................................................................................................................... 26
5.3
AIR RATE ................................................................................................................................. 26
5.3.1
Maximum ........................................................................................................................ 26
5.3.2
Optimum ......................................................................................................................... 27
5.4
PARTICLE AND BUBBLE SIZE ...................................................................................................... 28
5.4.1
Gas Velocity.................................................................................................................... 28
5.4.2
Probability of Collection .................................................................................................. 28
5.4.3
Solids Carrying Capacity ................................................................................................ 29

CPT Inc.

6.0
6.1
6.2
6.3
6.4
6.5
6.6
6.7

7.0
7.1
7.2
7.3
7.4
7.5
7.6
7.7
7.8
7.9
7.10
7.11

Column Cell

Operating & Maintenance Manual

FROTH ZONE THEORY ............................................................................................. 30


INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................... 30
FROTH CLEANING ..................................................................................................................... 30
GAS VELOCITY ......................................................................................................................... 31
FROTHER CONCENTRATION ...................................................................................................... 33
SUPERFICIAL BIAS RATE .......................................................................................................... 33
SELECTIVITY ............................................................................................................................ 35
REFERENCES ........................................................................................................................... 35

PRODUCTION COLUMN TESTING........................................................................... 36


INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................... 36
AIR RATE ................................................................................................................................. 36
WASH WATER BIAS .................................................................................................................. 37
OPERATING LEVEL ................................................................................................................... 37
BUBBLE SIZE ........................................................................................................................... 38
RESIDENCE TIME ...................................................................................................................... 38
WASH WATER DISTRIBUTOR HEIGHT......................................................................................... 39
SAMPLING ................................................................................................................................ 39
COLLECTION ZONE DENSITY ESTIMATION .................................................................................. 39
FROTH ZONE DENSITY ESTIMATION ....................................................................................... 40
COLUMN TEST DATA SHEET - SAMPLE................................................................................... 41

1.0
1.1

INTRODUCTION

DESCRIPTION OF A FLOTATION COLUMN

A Flotation Column is a type of flotation machine that incorporates some design features to enhance
metallurgical performance. Some of these features include:

1.2

Reduced surface area to cell volume ratio to promote froth stability

Froth washing system to minimise the entrainment of impurities

Quiescent flotation conditions to promote selectivity

Air sparging system to generate a supply of uniform bubbles

UNIQUE DESIGN FEATURES OF THE CPT COLUMN

The CPT Column Flotation System incorporates a number of unique, advanced features that
significantly enhance performance, such as . . .

QuickLift adjustable wash water manifold that provides overhead or submerged (in-froth) wash
water addition to allow adjustment of cleaning and froth density as required.

Internal feed distribution with lateral dispersion plates to promote uniform, low pressure
distribution of the incoming slurry.

Circular internal launders to reduce the travel distance for loaded bubbles, thus enhancing
recovery of coarse particles.

Launder baffles extending slightly into the slurry, to provide froth stabilization and minimize lateral
mixing during froth drainage.

The patented SlamJet Gas Sparging System providing air only or air + water injection through a
single ceramic wear-protected nozzle, and featuring a self-adjusting mechanism that provides
automatic fail closed operation on loss of air.

Internal conical tank bottom to promote underflow removal and minimize the potential for sanding
at the bottom of the column.

Flotation Columns derive their name from the


geometric shape of the vessel. Unlike conventional
mechanically agitated flotation machines which tend
to use relatively shallow rectangular tanks, column
cells are tall vessels with heights typically ranging
from 8 m to 15 m. The tank cross-section may be
either round, square or rectangular depending on the
specific application. For an equivalent volumetric
capacity, the surface area of the column cell is much
smaller than a conventional cell. This reduced area
is beneficial for promoting froth stability and allowing
very deep froth beds to be formed.

Figure 1 - Typical Column Cell

An important feature of flotation columns is the froth washing system. Froth washing provides an
additional means for removing unwanted impurities from the flotation froth. Wash water, added at the
top of the column, filters through the froth zone displacing process water and entrained particles
trapped between the bubbles. In addition, froth wash water serves to stabilise the froth by separating
bubbles into a packed bed of spherical, and therefore very strong, bubbles.
Unlike conventional flotation machines, columns do not use mechanical agitation. The absence of
intense agitation promotes selectivity and aids in the recovery of very fine particles. The basic flow
streams in a column are illustrated in Figure 1. Feed slurry enters the column at one or more feed
points located in the upper third of the column body and descends against a rising swarm of fine
bubbles generated by the air sparging system. Particles which collide with, and attach to the bubbles,
rise to the top of the column, eventually reaching the interface between the pulp (collection zone) and
the froth (cleaning zone). The location of the interface, which can be adjusted by the operator, is held

constant by means of an automatic control loop which regulates a valve on the column tailings line.
Varying the location of the interface will increase or decrease the height of the froth zone.
Flotation air is introduced into an external manifold and is injected through a series of air lances
(sparger tubes) located near the bottom of the column. The air rate used in the column is selected
according to the feed rate and concentrate production requirements and will determine, in part, the
point on the grade / recovery curve at which the column operates.
CPTs patented SlamJet air sparging system, shown schematically in Figure 2, comprises an air
manifold that surrounds the column cell and supplies air to a series of SlamJet sparger tubes. The
top of the manifold is fitted with connections for air as well as connections for a pressure gauge and a
pressure transmitter. The side of the manifold is equipped with a series of couplings for connecting to
the sparger tubes and is also fitted with one or more drains located at the bottom of the manifold.

Gas
Manifol d

Col umn Body


Vess el Wall

SlamJet
Advanced Gas
Sparging System

SLAMJET

Inser tion Port As sem bl y

SlamJet

Figure 2 - SlamJet System

Air enters the manifold through the connections located on the top of the manifold and exits through
the series of threaded couplings, (Figure 2) located on the side of the header. The manifold is sized
to act as a buffer against turbulence and to provide sufficient reservoir capacity to ensure even air
distribution to all spargers. The volume of the header also provides some opportunity for foreign
material to settle out.
The air then flows through the connecting hose to the sparger tube and is injected into the column
through the single ceramic lined orifices of the SlamJets. The number and length of SlamJets and
the pattern of insertion is designed so as to ensure an even distribution of fine bubbles.
The exact number and size of SlamJets included for each column is specifically designed to provide
for a maximum superficial gas velocity of 2.5 cm/s. Each SlamJet is attached to the header by a
single flexible hose fitted with a quick-disconnect swing coupling to allow for easy removal for
inspection or maintenance.
The sparger elements have been designed to allow easy removal from the column. A full port ball
valve and liquid-tight seal assembly comprises the sparger insertion port, and prevents process
slurries from exiting the column when the sparger is removed. Each SlamJet is also fitted with a selfadjusting mechanism that actuates a nozzle-mounted needle valve to control air flow and also allows
the SlamJet to fail closed on loss of air, thus eliminating any possibility of slurry back-flow into the air
delivery system..
A quick-disconnect coupling is used to isolate the sparger air flow during removal.
For the first few months of operation, SlamJet nozzles should be checked monthly for fouling and
wear. Worn nozzles can be quickly and easily replaced while the column is in full operation. The
inspection frequency can then be adjusted on an experience basis.
The SlamJet Model SLJ-75 has a larger (7.62 mm ) bore and incorporates a small flow of water to
promote generation of small bubbles. The sparger water flow, about 8 L/min, is administered by
means of an additional distribution manifold located just below the main air manifold.

1.3

GLOSSARY OF COLUMN FLOTATION TERMINOLOGY

The study of column flotation systems has resulted in new ways of examining flotation and some
specific terminology has evolved to describe the process. Some of the common terms are:

1.3.1

Bias

The term Bias (Superficial bias - Jb) is used to describe the flow of water (magnitude and direction)
through the froth zone into the collection zone. A positive bias is a net downward flow. It is often

estimated as the difference between the volumetric flow of the column underflow slurry and the
volumetric flow of the feed slurry rates divided by the cross-sectional area of the column.

1.3.2

Carrying Capacity

Three different carrying capacities have evolved;


Ca -

The maximum overflow mass that a column can produce. This is commonly quoted in terms
of tonnes of solids per hour per square meter of cross sectional column area - t/hm2. A
theoretical value can be estimated from Ca = 0.03 D80 s.

Cg -

The maximum solids floated per unit of air, commonly expressed in units of kilograms of
concentrate solids per cubic meter of air - kg/m3.

Cl -

The maximum mass of pulp that can be transported over the lip of the column, normally
expressed as tonnes per hour per meter of lip length - t/hm. Note that lip length must include
the length of all internal launders. This figure is critical in the design of large columns.

1.3.3

Difference Wash

The volume of water in the feed subtracted from the volume of water in the underflow is one
difference wash. Any wash water added in excess of this amount is assumed to report to the
overflow.

1.3.4

Displacement Wash

Displacement wash is the ratio of wash water to overflow water. A displacement wash of 1.0 means
that all the wash water reports to the overflow, while a displacement wash of 2.0 indicates an equal
amount of the water flow in the bias and overflow streams (assuming no feed water in the overflow).

1.3.5

Entrainment

Non-selective flotation caused by particles riding in a bubble's wake thereby passing into the column
overflow. Entrainment is common in mechanical cells, particularly with small particles, but is virtually
eliminated in column flotation by the use of wash water.

1.3.6

Flow Conventions

Downward flow of slurry or liquid, and upward flow of air are defined as positive.

1.3.7

Gas Holdup

There are three types of holdup in a column reflecting it's three phase nature - solids (mineral), liquid
(water) and gas (air).

Gas Holdup (fg, or

g) is the fractional volume of gas. A typical value of gas holdup is 0.15 (or 15%)

but this value may range between 0.05 and 0.25 (5% to 25%).
Solids Holdup (fs, or s) is the solids fractional volume.
Liquid Holdup (fl, or l) is the fractional volume of liquid.

1.3.8

Air Sparger

Any device used to create the bubbles in a flotation column. The common types are the CPT
SparJet System, the CPT SlamJet System and various constructions of porous media.

1.3.9

Superficial Velocities

Superficial velocity is the volumetric flow rate of the material in question (slurry, water or air) divided
by the cross sectional area of the column, normally expressed in cm/s. This normalised variable
allows evaluation of column performance characteristics independent of column diameter.

1.4

TERMS

(Units may vary according to local use)


Cx

Carrying capacity where x = :

= theoretical bubble loading (t/hm2)

= loading per gas unit (kg/m3)

= removal capacity per unit lip length (t/hm)

Holdup (all either fractional or %) where x = :

= gas

= liquid

= solids

Jx

Superficial Velocity where x = :

= bias

= overflow

= feed

= gas

1.4

sl

= slurry

= underflow

= wash water

spa

= sparger air

Qx

Mass flow rate, with x values the same as for superficial velocities

Vx

Volumetric flow rate

Density of x = :

col

= bulk, collection zone

fro

= bulk, froth zone

= average concentrate solids

sl

= column slurry estimated by using tails density

= underflow density

(l)

= liquids fraction

(s)

= solids fraction

Hc

= height of column (m)

Hf

= height of interface (m)

Hspa

= height of spargers (m)

= pressure (kPa)

= distance from column lip to pressure transducer (m)

WASH WATER

Wash water (Jw) is the water added to clean the froth zone. In positive bias operation this Jw forms
both the overflow liquid (Jo) and the bias (Jb).

CPT Column

Column Operation

2.0
2.1

Page 8

COLUMN OPERATION

INTRODUCTION

This section covers column start-up and shut-down, and gives estimates of column parameters and
guidelines for operation. It is intended to familiarise operators with column operation as a reference
and as a start to determining the column's operational characteristics. The values it contains are
estimates which must be confirmed in plant practice.

2.2

COLUMN KEY

(Start-up and Shut-Down)


A key is a written flow chart of questions and directions. These keys are meant to serve only as a
guide. Not all steps are needed all of the time. Warnings and notes draw attention to important
features. Advance in order unless instructed otherwise. Each key describes steps performed on one
column.
End indicates completion of instructions. This may be followed for each column.

2.3

COLUMN START-UP

2.3.1

Start-up Options

First start-up, go to 2.3.2


Normal operation, column empty, go to 2.3.10; column full, go to 2.3.11

CONTROL WARNING:
For mineral columns operating at higher densities (20% to 30% solids or higher) a minimum flow must
be set on the underflow valve to prevent sanding. This is done by setting a minimum position on the
underflow valve. Whenever possible this minimum should be maintained.

CPT Column

2.3.2

Column Operation

Page 9

Check All Auto Valves

The automatic valves should all be stroked using the control system.
Ensure that all air and water lines are de-pressurized and the column is empty.
Ensure that the instrument air supply to all automatic valves (for valve actuation) is fully pressurized.
Check all auto valves for air leaks and correct if necessary.
Apply power to all automatic valve controllers and ensure that all controllers are set for MANUAL
operation.
One at a time, manually change the controller valve position set-points from fully closed to fully open.
Visually confirm that all valves move in the desired direction and to the desired limits.
Change the controller set-points back to fully closed and again verify valve movement.
Close all column drain valves and water lance.1
Activate the level control system.

2.3.3

Sparger Check

Check that all SlamJet spargers are installed in the correct location as per Sparger General
Arrangement drawings:
The SlamJet tubes should be pushed fully into the insertion port assembly.
Note that the self-adjusting mechanism will ensure that all SlamJets are closed when not pressurised.

Turn all the individual sparger isolation header valves OFF (see Fig. 2) to isolate the header from the
spargers.

2.3.4

Pressurise the Flowmeters

Manual shutoff valves at the battery limits on the air and wash water supply must be confirmed
CLOSED.
Leave all control valves CLOSED.
SLOWLY OPEN the air supply manual control valve. Check for leaks. Do the same for the wash water
and sparger water supply control valves.

The water lances are located opposite the underflow exit pipe and can be used to unplug the

column if either the underflow line or bottom of the column sand out.

CPT Column
2.3.5

Column Operation

Page 10

Air Line Checks

The air pressure should be between 500 kPa (70 psi) and 600 kPa (90 psi).
Make sure that the air filter is clear.
Check for air line leaks and correct if necessary.

2.3.6

Sparger Air Pressurisation

Open the air manifold drain valves, then gently open the manual air flow control valve to approximately
10% of full flow.
Slowly increase to full flow to purge the air system.
Purge the piping at full flow for several minutes, then check for oil entrained in the air.
If oil persists, go to 2.3.13.

NOTE:
It is important that as little oil as possible is present in the airlines. Although small amounts of oil will not
adversely affect operation of the SlamJets, the presence of oil may interfere with metallurgical
performance of the column by causing non-selective flotation. An oil filter may be required.

Check that the air flowmeter indicates a flow. Record this flow.
Close the drain valve, then close the air flow control valve to ensure stoppage of flow.

2.3.7

Sparger Hose Connections

Close all sparger isolation valves. (done in 2.3.3)


Pressurise the air manifold to approximately 500 kPa (70 psi) and check for leaks.
One at a time, slowly open each SlamJet isolation valve to check sparger hose connections and to
verify that the SlamJet auto-close mechanism opens and allows air flow to commence.
Correct any leaks.
Close all air manifold valves.

2.3.8

Wash Water Check

Purge the wash water line so that no tramp material reaches the wash water distributor.

NOTE:

CPT Column

Column Operation

Page 11

Air, sparger water and wash water supply lines should be flushed and verified clean PRIOR to
installation of flowmeters and control valves.

Make sure that the manual wash water flow control valve is closed, then pressurize the wash water
piping system.
Slowly open the wash water isolation valve. Check for leaks.
Open the wash water flow control valve to ensure it is operative with water flow.
Clear any blocked distributor holes and check for even wash water distribution at low flow.
Close the control valve.
Check for tramp material in the distributor.

2.3.9

Gas Holdup Calibration

Check the holdup reading with the column filled with water (g=0).2
Set the air rate to approximately 10% of full flow and open all " header sparger valves except the drain.

2.3.10 Empty Column Start-up


If the column is empty, fill it with water using the wash water distributor, the feed pump or a simple water
hose.

CALIBRATION NOTE:
From time to time, confirm the actual level with a hand held float probe. This simple confirmation should
be conducted on a regular basis, particularly if the slurry or pulp density changes.
Check the interface calibration by filling the column with water. The underflow pinch valve should open
to maintain column level.
Check the gas holdup reading with the column filled with water - ie., g = 0.

Pressure transducer readings at

g = 0 should be equal to gh where = 1 (water), g = 9.81,

h = distance from transducer to water level (m).

CPT Column

Column Operation

Page 12

NOTE:
Due to density variations within the froth zone, locating the interface may require detection of the
point at which a distinct difference in the buoyancy force is felt.

WARNING:
To avoid unnecessary start-up problems it is recommended that the column be filled with water prior to
feeding pulp. The column can be shut down by stopping the feed, air and wash water. The column may
sand out, but can be re-started using the repulping lances (see 2.4.4 & 2.4.5). A recycle line (not
installed) between the underflow and feed would allow the column to be filled with slurry and continue to
operate during periods when no feed is available.

2.3.11 Check Launder Sprays


Check for proper water flow from the launder spray system, if installed. Leave the launder spray system
OFF if not required.

2.3.12 Starting of Slurry Flows


Make sure that all valves are positioned to send flow through the desired pumps and pipes.
Adjust the sparger air and water to normal operational levels.
Set desired wash water flow.
Open the underflow isolation valve.
Start the column feed pump. End

CPT Column

Column Operation

Page 13

OPERATING NOTE:
The column should now be running. It will take some time before enough solids accumulate in the
column to permit formation of a stable froth.

2.3.13 Oil in Sparger Air Supply


Close the header drain and clean the air line filters.
Repeat Step 2.3.6. If oil continues to flow, shut off the air supply and check for the cause of the oil.

2.4

COLUMN SHUTDOWN

2.4.1

Emergency Shutdown

If the shut down is caused by a power failure go to 2.4.6.

2.4.2

Initial Procedure

When the feed supply is discontinued, adjust the wash water so that the underflow pinch valve can
maintain the interface level without sanding out lines. This may involve increasing the wash water flow.

2.4.3

Final Procedure

The column will continue to float the contained material and any material being sent to it from existing
recycle flows. When this flotation ceases, assess the type of shut down expected. If the shut down is to
be for longer than one to two hours go to 2.4.5.

2.4.4

Short Term Shutdown

When the column is to be shut down for a short period of time it need not be emptied. Sparger air flow
can be shut off and the SlamJets will automatically fail closed to prevent backflow of slurry. Wash water
flow can be shut off, and the underflow isolation valve can be closed (see Operations Note below).
When feed is reintroduced, simply open the underflow isolation valve, and reset the wash water rate and
sparger settings to their previous levels. End

2.4.5

Long Term Shutdown

When the column is not to be used for extended periods it can be drained. Reduce the wash water
addition rate and allow the column to slowly drain by opening the underflow valve manually. When the

CPT Column

Column Operation

Page 14

interface level is below the spargers, the wash water and air may be shut off. If an underflow pump is
present it may be shut off. End

OPERATING NOTE:
In a shutdown situation, the column underflow line between the underflow isolation valve and the flow
control pinch valve should be drained to prevent sanding.

2.4.6

Power Failure Shutdown

Turn off all sparger header isolation valves. Note that all SlamJets should automatically fail closed on
loss of air. Immediately shut off all streams in and out of the column. This includes pump gland water
and sparger air. The underflow valve may continue to bypass material due to the minimum setpoint (if
used), so the underflow isolation valve must also be closed. The underflow line downstream of the
isolation valve should be drained to aid start up. When power is restored, return the sparger air flows,
then the underflow followed by the remaining streams, to normal operating levels. End

2.5

COLUMN RE-START FOLLOWING SHUTDOWN

If the column is shutdown during operation, it is possible that the column will sand out. If the column
is operating at higher density and there is a probability of sanding, the following re-start procedure
should be observed;

2.5.1

Re-Pulping

To repulp the column, connect water lines to the repulp lances and apply a water flow. After a short
period of time (15 minutes), the air should be re-started. The combination of lance water and sparger
air will serve to repulp the sanded contents at the bottom of the column.
See Warning Below Possibility of SEVERE Damage to Spargers

2.5.2

Re-Starting Underflow

After the repulp lances and sparger air flows have been running for a period of time (15 to 30
minutes), the underflow isolation valve should be opened SLOWLY to initiate flow.

WARNING:
If, during the shutdown period, material settles to a level ABOVE the spargers, it is IMPERATIVE to
thoroughly repulp the sanded contents and to open the underflow valve SLOWLY. Failure to observe

CPT Column

Column Operation

Page 15

this procedure can cause a large slug of sanded material to move suddenly downward, resulting in
SEVERE damage to the spargers by bending them down with the moving slug of material.

2.6

OPERATING GUIDES

This section suggests approximate settings for some of the more common variables which should be
optimised during operation. Also given here are the general effects that changing one variable will
have on a column at steady state. Compensation for variations can be made for gradual changes, but
quick swings in flow rates or pulses of high or low grade material may cause poorer performance
than would otherwise be expected. Therefore the feed volumetric slurry rate and total flux of floatable
material should be kept as constant as possible. Make sure that all the control loops are tuned to
prevent unwanted oscillations.

2.6.1

Sparger Air

The column air rate is the most commonly adjusted control variable. The response to changes in air rate
will be very rapid. The normal operating levels for air addition rates for column cells range from 0.5 cm/s
to about 2.0 cm/s depending on the application. The optimum rate will vary depending on bubble size,
bubble loading and slurry velocities and must be determined during the commissioning period.
Increasing the air flow will generally have the following effects:

reduce the grade of the froth product

increase the recovery of solids to the column overflow

reduce the percent solids in the overflow

These effects are only valid within a specific region of flow. As the air rate is increased, the bubble size
will eventually change producing a different flow regime that may be detrimental to performance. Some
indications of excessive air rates are the loss of a well defined interface or excessive turbulence in the
froth zone. Increases in air will lead to increases in overflow production and will require a corresponding
increase in wash water rates to maintain a positive bias. Air volumetric flows below 0.5 cm/s may cause
froth bed collapse. In this case the froth zone depth will have to be decreased. (i.e. pulp level raised).

2.6.2

Interface Level

The interface level between the froth and pulp zones can influence both the concentrate grade and
mineral recovery to overflow. A deeper froth will increase the purity of the froth by providing more time
for the entrained impurities to drain from the froth. It will also, however, result in a decrease in the
recovery of the minerals being floated due to an increase in "drop-back".

CPT Column

Column Operation

Page 16

The column level should normally be controlled in a range from 500 mm to 1,000 mm but can vary
depending on the stability of the froth. Little benefit is expected at depths greater than 1,500 mm. Much
shallower froths are possible and may be desirable if the column is being used in a reverse flotation
application or as a scavenger. Tests can be performed to predict performance at various interface
levels.

2.6.3

Wash Water

Wash water is increased or decreased to control the bias (see section 2.6.4).

2.6.4

Wash Water Bias

The non-selective entrainment of hydrophilic minerals can be reduced by preventing feed water from
entering the overflow. This is done by operating with a positive bias (+Jb). Jb should be operated within
the range of 0.0 to 0.3 cm/s. A Jb of 0.05 cm/s is suggested at startup.
Increased bias flow will:

increase the displacement wash and underflow/feed ratio3

increase the grade of the froth

decrease the recovery of the minerals being floated.

These effects do not continue indefinitely with increased amounts of bias. Eventually channelling of the
water and breaking of the froth occurs that negates all the benefits of extra wash water. To ensure a
positive bias, maintain an underflow liquid flow greater than the feed liquid flow by altering the wash
water rate.

2.6.5

Reagent Dosage

In order for a column to function properly, it is imperative that the chemical conditions of the feed are
correct prior to feeding the column. If the process is sensitive to fluctuations in pH, measurements
should be made at the column underflow to account for dilution effects caused by wash water addition.
Increasing the frother concentration will:

reduce the bias rate

reduce the percent solids in the overflow.

increase the gas holdup of the collection zone

reduce froth zone gas holdup

Displacement wash, differential wash, bias ratio and superficial bias rates are all different ways of
describing the liquid flux through the column froth zone.

CPT Column

Column Operation

reduce the maximum air rate

reduce bubble size

Page 17

Frother acts to stabilise the froth zone. Increased frother produces smaller bubbles which may or may
not improve collection of particles.

2.7

TROUBLESHOOTING

This section gives possible causes of poor performance and suggests improvements. Two conditions
are dealt with: poor froth grades and poor mineral recovery. Each is then subdivided into two categories:
problems originating with the column and those that originate in the rest of the circuit. Possible solutions
are given in order from most to least likely.

2.7.1

Is Froth Purity Low?

2.7.1.1 Column Problems


For direct flotation applications, the column froth product is the concentrate and hence the objective is to
minimise the entrainment of impurities. For reverse flotation applications, the overflow is considered
tailings and therefore entrainment can result in recovery losses. High air rates may cause an increase in
material entrained in the overflow by increasing the amount of feed water that is carried by the bubbles.
To counteract this try, one at a time:
Reduce the air rate.
If the wash water bias rate Jb is less than 0.25 cm/s, increase the wash water flow QW
The interface level may be too high which reduces the froth zone cleaning action. Increase the froth
depth.
2.7.1.2 Circuit Problems
High reagent dosages or incorrect feed pH could cause excessive amounts of feed water to report to the
overflow causing increased entrainment and increased wash water rates. Check reagent addition rates.
Grind size may be too large creating middling particles that are recovered to the froth. Check the size
distribution of the feed, concentrate and tailings streams. Analyse the various size fractions to determine
if there is a possible liberation problem.

2.7.2

Is Flotation Recovery Low?

2.7.2.1 Column Problems


Low recoveries of the minerals being floated are quite often caused by low air rates. Increase the air
rate, but watch for loss of interface, and approach air rates greater than 2.0 cm/s with caution. If the
column is operating with a deep froth (greater than 1,000 mm) try reducing the froth depth.

CPT Column

Column Operation

Page 18

High air rates may cause a turbulent flow in the column which is not conducive to good flotation
separation. The interface may also be lost. This may appear as volcanoes or geysers in the froth. (The
volcanoes can also be caused by very high froth density). Reduce the air rate.
Excessive wash water may cause froth breakage which reduces the production capacity. This will be
seen as an unstable froth. Reduce the wash water rate.
Poor air distribution causes eddies within the collection and froth zones that decrease the effective
column residence time. This may be seen as an unstable froth. Ensure that all spargers are clear, and
accelerate the sparger tube inspection and cleaning schedule.
2.7.2.2 Circuit Problems
Insufficient collector addition or incorrect pH may contribute to poor flotation performance. Check
reagent addition rates and adjust as required. If frother is being used, low frother dosages may cause
froth instability and can result in an increase in bubble size. Increase frother dosage or increase sparger
air flow rate.
Grind size may be too large creating middling particles that are difficult to float. This can be determined
by microscopic examination for locked particles.

CPT Column

Instrumentation & Control

3.0
3.1

Page 19

INSTRUMENTATION AND CONTROL

INTRODUCTION

Columns can be instrumented with up to three automatic control loops: Column Interface Level,
Sparger Air Flow and Wash Water Flow. In many applications the wash water addition rate is
manually controlled and only two automatic control loops are required. For small diameter columns, it
is common to control both the air and water with manual control valves, and to employ automatic
control only for column level.
The description of the operation of the control loops should be read in conjunction with the Process
and Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID). This drawing lists the normal, maximum and minimum flows for
each process stream.

3.2

SPARGER PRESSURE

The pressure in the sparger manifold must be maintained between approximately 400 kPa and 700
kPa. Sparger manifold pressure is a function of

SlamJet Control Setting (factory pre-set cracking pressure)

Sparger Air Flow Rate

Battery Limit Air Supply Pressure

An initial operating pressure of 550 kPa is recommended. During the course of commissioning,
different operating pressures should be tested to determine the optimum value for each application.
The maximum pressure of the system is the point at which air flow becomes limited which is a
function of the supply pressures.
For systems requiring remote sensing of the header pressure, a pressure transmitter can be mounted
on the gas header.

3.3

SPARGER AIR FLOW

Air flow control is the most critical parameter for maintaining proper column operation. The air flow
rate is measured by a flowmeter (rotameter, orifice plate or vortex flowmeter) and is controlled
automatically

with a ball valve.

The recovery of solids to the column overflow is dependant on the air rate. Air flows corresponding to
a superficial gas rate below 0.5 cm/s are not recommended but can be run with appropriate care.
The estimated maximum air rate should correspond to a superficial gas rate of approximately 2.0 to
2.5 cm/s. This rate could be lower or higher depending on column conditions. The air flow rate should

CPT Column

Instrumentation & Control

Page 20

be changed in a stepwise fashion using small set-point changes in order to minimise process upsets.
A maximum change of 10% of total flow at a time is recommended.
The maximum and minimum air flow rates are only estimates. The exact values should be
determined under operating conditions. Below the minimum gas rate the froth becomes unstable.
Above the maximum gas rate recovery of solids to the overflow will decrease as bubble coalescence
begins to occur. Both of these values will vary with changes in interface level, reagent dosages, feed
tonnages and grades, and percent solids.
The amount of air needed to meet grade / recovery requirements depends on the particle size and
amount of material to be floated but should fall within the previously mentioned ranges.

3.4

COLUMN INTERFACE LEVEL

The position of the froth / pulp interface is measured using either a ball float and ultrasonic detector or
single or dual pressure transducers. Both systems deliver a 4 to 20 mA signal proportional to the
position of the froth / pulp interface. The interface level is controlled by a PID Controller (or DCS or
PLC) which adjusts an automatic pinch valve on the column underflow line.
Slight variations in column level are not critical to performance as long as the level remains within a
certain range. Variations of 100 mm are acceptable over a time span of 10 minutes as long as the
variations are gentle. Column performance will improve with more stable control especially when
operating with a bias close to zero.
It is suggested that the level be operated at depths greater than 300 mm and less than 1,500 mm
with normal operation at 750 mm.

3.5

WASH WATER

The wash water flow is measured by a flowmeter (rotameter, orifice plate or magnetic flowmeter) and
is controlled either manually or automatically with a flow control valve. The expected range of flow will
be approximately 0.15 to 0.40 cm/s. Slow variations in flow are acceptable but better performance will
be achieved with smooth control. The wash water rates quoted are estimates and should be adjusted
to produce the proper bias rate. Actual rates should be determined through column tests during
operation as they will depend on the feed rate, feed grade and expected mass recovery to the column
overflow. The minimum bias occurs when no wash water is added to the column. As bias is
increased, the purity of the froth will increase due to the displacement of entrained particles. An initial
bias setpoint of approximately 0.1 cm/s is suggested.

CPT Column

System Maintenance

4.0
4.1

Page 21

SYSTEM MAINTENANCE

INTRODUCTION

All maintenance should be done on a scheduled basis. Operators should regularly inspect all parts of
the circuit. Operational and performance trends from the column should be noted for indications of
instrument problems including faulty calibration and tuning.

4.2

COLUMN MAINTENANCE

The overflow launders, both external and internal, should be kept clear of scale and accumulated
solids. This will ensure that the overflow of froth is not hindered. Scale and/or solids can have a
tendency to build up on the lip of the launder and on the column walls at a point just below the lip.
This material should be routinely scraped or washed off by the operators.
The wash water system must be maintained so that the flow of water is evenly dispersed within the
froth. Periodically inspect the distributor for build-up of solids or for blocked holes. The distributor
holes must remain clear.

MAINTENANCE NOTE:
Pinch valve sleeves can wear out quickly if they are required to operate at low opening percentages
or with high pressure drops across the valve. Careful attention must be paid to the wear of this valve
as indicated by the valve percent opening Vs flow rate relationship and regular inspections.

If pressure transducers are installed on the column, regular inspections should be made to ensure
that they are functioning properly. The calibration should be checked from time to time by noting the
readings when the column is full of water. Any scaling should be carefully removed according to
manufacture's maintenance procedures.
Level control systems that use a ball float should be cleaned regularly to prevent a build-up of solids
on the float or target.
Level calibration can be checked by using a manual float. At times the density of the froth is high
enough to float the ball float but little resistance will be encountered when the ball float is pushed
further down. This condition is commonly called a double interface: the true interface will be the lower
one.

CPT Column

4.3

System Maintenance

Page 22

SPARGER MAINTENANCE

The spargers have been designed for reliability and durability, but some maintenance is required.
Regular inspections should be made both to maintain performance and to prevent a build-up of scale
on the tube surfaces.

4.3.1

Orifice Wear

No rapid deterioration is expected at the tip orifice, but they are expected to enlarge slowly over a
number of years. However, in the unlikely event that the sparger orifices become enlarged they must
be replaced to avoid a decrease in the metallurgical performance.
Care should be taken to limit the SlamJets exposure to highly acid environments. Hydrochloric acid will
corrode both the stainless steel tubes and the adhesive compound which holds the ceramic inserts in
place.

WARNING:
Cleaning spargers with a strong acidic solution could result in corrosion to the stainless steel tubes as
well as damage to the retaining compound used to adhere ceramic inserts in the sparger nozzles.

4.3.2

Tip Blockage

A maintenance program should be devised based on inspections for blocked nozzle orifices and poor air
distribution. Each sparger tube should be pulled on a regular basis. The interval of inspections depends
on the scale forming tendency of the slurry and sparger water. Note that the SlamJet orifice diameter is
7.62 mm, and blockage is not expected to be a problem.
Initially CPT recommends that spargers be checked monthly. This interval can then be extended if no
plugging or serious scale formation problems are encountered.
In the case of blocked orifices the blockage should be removed. If tip blockage becomes a recurring
problem, consideration should be given to the installation of additional filters for the air lines.

4.3.3

External Scaling

In the presence of highly scale-forming slurries, the external surfaces of sparger tubes will become
scaled, making them difficult to remove for inspection. In severe cases, the external scale can cause
damage to the rubber seal in the liquid-tight insertion port seal assembly.

CPT Column

System Maintenance

Page 23

If scale formation is a problem then different spargers should be pulled on a rotating basis, as often as
required, and the external surfaces cleaned with an emery cloth. If scaling is a persistent problem,
please contact CPT.

4.3.4

Sparger Removal

Close the isolation valve at the manifold. The SlamJet will then automatically fail closed.
Remove the air hose by disconnecting the coupling.
Slightly loosen the compression fitting so that the sparger can be slowly withdrawn from the column.

WARNING:
Slurry will leak from the compression fitting if it is loosened too much.

Each sparger tube has been marked with a groove located approximately 300 mm from the end. This
groove provides a visual indication of when the end of the sparger tube has cleared the insertion port
ball valve.
When the groove appears, close the ball valve. If this is not done before fully removing the sparger, a
stream of slurry will emerge from the column at high velocity through the sparger nipple.
Assess the condition of the sparger nozzle by direct visual observation and clear any blockages. If the
blockages are serious, remove the plug at the end of the tube to allow loosened material to flow out of
the sparger.
Removal of exterior scaling of the sparger tube will ensure that the tubes are always easy to remove.
To re-install the SlamJet, insert the tube until the end comes into contact with the closed ball valve in
the insertion port. Tighten the compression fitting enough to stop leaks. Open the ball valve and push
the sparger tube into the column, then tighten the compression fitting by hand.

WARNING:
If SlamJets are pressurised while outside the column, the resulting high velocity air jet is extremely
hazardous. As a precautionary measure, always wear gloves when handling spargers that are
operating outside the column and DO NOT direct the air jet at personnel.

CPT Column
4.3.5

System Maintenance

Page 24

Poor Air Distribution

Uneven swelling of froth in the column may be a sign of poor air distribution caused by one or more
partially or fully blocked SlamJets.
This may be caused by insufficient air pressure in the system, blocked hoses which prevent air entry
into the sparger or one or more spargers being turned off.
In the unlikely event that the sparger holes become enlarged, the sparger nozzles must be replaced to
avoid a loss in metallurgical performance.

4.4

COMPRESSOR AND AIR LINES

Oil from the compressor should not be allowed to enter the column. This oil may cause flotation
problems, such as a excessive frothing and poor selectivity.

CPT Column

Collection Zone Theory

5.0
5.1

Page 25

COLLECTION ZONE THEORY

INTRODUCTION

The collection zone of the column is located between the froth interface (Hf) and the point of maximum
descent of the bubbles below the spargers (Hspa). In this zone floatable material from the feed stream
and material returned after rejection from the froth zone (dropback) are collected by rising bubbles.
Recovery of material within the collection zone is dependent on the zone's residence time and mixing
characteristics.

5.2

RESIDENCE TIME

Collection zone residence time, as mentioned in the testwork section, is estimated for round columns by
the following equation;

sl ( min ) =

15 d 2c ( H c - H spa - H f )(1 - col / sl )


V tail

Where

sl

collection zone residence time (min)

dc

column diameter (m)

Hc

total column height (m)

Hspa

sparger level (m)

Hf

interface level (m)

col

collection zone density (t/m3)

sl

concentrate slurry density (t/m3)

Vtail

tailing (underflow) volumetric flowrate (m3/hr)

The equation has three parts: column volume, gas holdup and slurry velocity.

CPT Column

Collection Zone Theory

Page 26

Liquid Velocity J L ( cm/s)

Frother Concentration (ppm)


30

Gas Holdup - E g (%)

Gas Holdup - E g (%)

15
10
5
20

10

1.00
1.26
20

10

0.5

Superficial Gas Velocity - J g (cm/s)

5.2.1

0.38

30

1.0

1.5

Superficial Slurry Velocity - J sl (cm/s)

Figure 3 - Gas Holdup Vs Gas Velocity

Figure 4 - Gas Holdup Vs Slurry Velocity

from Dobby & Finch - 1988

from Dobby & Finch - 1988

Column Volume

The volume of the collection zone is essentially fixed. Hf, the interface level, is the only variable which
can be easily changed to increase collection zone volume but the impact on residence time will be
small. The only significant way to influence residence time is to vary the column feed rate.

5.2.2

Gas Holdup

Gas holdup is the volume fraction of gas in the column. It is a parameter dependant on other variables
such as volumetric air rate, size of the bubbles, slurry density, solids bubble loading, and slurry velocity.
Increased gas holdup reduces collection zone residence time.
Gas holdup may increase due to three factors:
An increase in gas flow will increase the number of bubbles present in the column as more bubbles are
being generated in any time period.
A bubble size decrease caused by sparger operation or frother dosage will cause each bubble to rise
more slowly in the slurry, again causing an increased amount of air in the column.
An increase in downward slurry velocity will decrease bubble rise velocity relative to the column, also
resulting in an increase in the quantity of air held up in the column.

5.3

AIR RATE

5.3.1

Maximum

The maximum air rate which a column is capable of handling is determined by three limits: (i) the
superficial feed rate must be less than the bubble rise velocity, (ii) the collection zone density must be
greater than the froth zone density and (iii) bubble coalescence must not form air slugs.

CPT Column

Collection Zone Theory

Cocurrent

Bubble Diameter (mm)


0.5

3.0
3

0.7

Ec * Ea (%)

Superficial Gas Velocity - J g (cm/s)

Countercurrent

Page 27

db = 0.13 cm

0.10
1

1.0

0.5

0.07

1.3

0.04

-2.0

(i)

1.0

-1.5

-1.0

-0.5

0.02
0.0

+0.5

20

40

60

Superficial Slurry Velocity - J sl (cm/s)

Particle Size ()

Figure 5 - Column Flooding

Figure 6 - Bubble & Particle Size Effects

from Dobby & Finch - 1986

from Dobby & Finch - 1988

Bubble rise velocity depends on bubble size, the difference between the apparent collection

zone and bubble densities, and downward slurry velocity. A distribution of bubbles sizes is produced by
any sparging system. Therefore, when the slurry feed rate exceeds the rise velocity of the smallest
bubble, a percentage of the air is lost to the underflow.
(ii)

As the gas rate to the column increases the three phase density of the collection zone

decreases. At the same time the density of the froth zone will increase until the two are equal. At this
point the gas holdup will suddenly increase from about 15% to over 50%. When this occurs, the column
is said to be frothed up. Recoveries drop significantly under these conditions.
(iii)

The increased turbulence and larger bubbles formed at higher gas rates cause an increase in

bubble coalescence which results in a decrease in the incremental gas holdup. Eventually, severe
coalescence will result in the formation of large slugs of air. This effect changes the column mixing
characteristics and reduces both the surface area available for flotation and the collection of particles on
the bubble surface. One of these factors will probably limit the maximum column gas velocity to between
1.8 and 3.5 cm/s.

5.3.2

Optimum

The optimum gas rate usually occurs at the point at which solids loading per gas volume is maximised
(Cg) rather than at the maximum gas holdup. Maximum gas holdup usually occurs at a gas rate larger
than optimum.

CPT Column

5.4

Collection Zone Theory

Page 28

PARTICLE AND BUBBLE SIZE

Both the average size of bubbles and distribution of bubble sizes are important to column flotation. They
affect maximum gas rate, probability of particle collection on the bubble, and solids gas carrying capacity
(Cg). Bubbles used are typically between 0.8 and 1.6 mm in diameter with the actual size depending on
reagent conditions, sparger design, and operating pressure.

5.4.1

Gas Velocity

Smaller bubbles have a reduced rise velocity, therefore, the maximum gas rate will be less than that
possible with larger bubbles.

5.4.2

Probability of Collection

The flotation rate constant of a column has been related to the probability of particle - bubble collision
and attachment by the following equation:

kc =

1.5 J g ac
db

Kc =

1.5 J g E a E c
Db

Where
kc

is the flotation rate constant (min-1).

is defined as the fraction of particles contained in the cylindrical volume travelled by


the bubble which collide with that bubble.

is defined by the fraction of particles which have collided with the bubble that attach
to that bubble.

db

is defined as the bubble diameter in m.

Bubble size should be adjusted for changing particle size to fully optimise a column. This can be
achieved in two ways: (i) by adding a frother to the feed or (ii) by increasing the sparger pressure.

CPT Column
5.4.3

Collection Zone Theory

Page 29

Solids Carrying Capacity

Bubble Diameter (mm)

2.5

2.0

Slurry
Frother

1.5

Sparger
Frother

1.0

0.05

0.10

0.15

Frother Consumption (mg/sm 2)

Figure 7 - Effect of Frother on Holdup


from Dobby & Finch - 1988

The amount of solids which can be carried by a bubble are influenced by the following factors: surface
area to volume ratio, solids density, and particle size, hydrophobicity, and particle shape.
Smaller bubbles have larger surface areas per volume and therefore can carry more solids per air
volume. (The slower rise velocity of the smaller bubbles reduces the air volume which can be added to
the column.) Very small bubbles (micro bubbles) may cause loss of collected solids to the underflow
stream when bubble density (collected solids plus air) reduces bubble rise velocity to values smaller
than the slurry velocity. More hydrophobic particles attach to the bubble faster therefore have a larger
Ea. Particles which are highly angular tend to attach more quickly.

CPT Column

Froth Zone Theory

6.0
6.1

Page 30

FROTH ZONE THEORY

INTRODUCTION

The froth zone extends from the collection or pulp zone interface to the column lip. In this zone solids
and water are carried between bubbles. The three phase density of this zone usually ranges from 0.2
to 1.0 g/cm3, depending on the solids floated, location of measurement, froth depth, wash water, and
frother dosage.
Wash water stabilises the bubbles and reduces coalescence. Figure 8 illustrates this effect by showing
the change in holdup with level of the column (with wash water) and a mechanical cell (without wash
water).
Gas Holdup - E g (%)
20

40

60

80

Wash Water

Froth Depth (approx. 1.0 m)

Overflow

Concentrate

Draining
Froth Bed
Eg > 0.80

Negative
Bias
Positive
Bias

Column Froth
Froth Zone

Conventional
Froth

Packed
Bubble Bed
Eg > 0.74

Expanded
Bubble Bed
Eg < 0.74

Interface
Collection
Zone

Interface
Level

Bubbling
Zone
Eg < 0.20

Figure 8 - Conv. Vs Column Holdup

Figure 9 - Froth Zone Profile

from Dobby & Finch - 1988

from Yianatos - 1985

As the bubbles ascend the froth zone a certain amount of coalescence occurs. This reduces the
bubble surface area available for solids and also decreases the volume of the voids between bubbles
occupied by water. This property appears as an increase in gas holdup with height and is illustrated
in Figure 9.

6.2

FROTH CLEANING

Since there is a net downward flow of water in the froth zone (assuming a positive bias) particles not
attached to bubbles will be carried back into the collection zone. This includes particles that are

CPT Column

Froth Zone Theory

Page 31

carried with, but not attached, to bubbles (non-selective entrainment) and particles that become
detached from the bubble due to coalescence. These particles, returned to the collection zone via the
wash water, form a partial internal solids recycle. This is commonly termed "drop-back", and is the
reason behind the increased grade and lower recovery at deeper interface levels (Figures 10 and
11).

1.0

Concentrate Grade (% Ni)

Copper Recovery (%)

80

70

60

50

0.6

0.4

0.8

6.3

0.8

1.0

1.2

1.4

0.8

1.0

1.2

1.4

Froth Depth (m)

Froth Depth (m)

Figure 10 - Cu Recovery Vs Froth Depth

Figure 11 - Ni Grade Vs Froth Depth

from Huls - 1989

from Huls - 1989

GAS VELOCITY

An increase in gas velocity results in an increased collection zone holdup and a decreased froth zone
holdup (Figure 12). Less coalescence occurs in the froth zone as gas rate is increased, therefore,
froth grade deteriorates. Very high air rates may result in a loss of the interface.
This is apparent when the holdup in the froth and collection zones are equal. This condition can
contribute to the rapid drop in grade found at high recoveries on typical column grade / recovery
curves (Figure 13).

CPT Column

Froth Zone Theory

Page 32

Gas Holdup - E g (%)


20

40

60

80

Froth Depth (approx. 1.0 m)

Overflow

54

Grade (%)

Froth Zone

Jg

Interface

52

50

48

Collection
Zone

Jg

92

94

from Dobby & Finch - 1988

40

60

98

Figure 13 - Rghr Column Grade/Recovery

Gas Holdup - E g (%)


20

96

Recovery (%)

Figure 12 - Effect of Jg on Gas Holdup

Gas Holdup - E g (%)

80

20

40

60

80

Froth Zone

Frother

Overflow

Froth Depth (approx. 1.0 m)

Froth Depth (approx. 1.0 m)

Overflow

Froth
Zone

Jb

Interface
Frother

Collection
Zone

Interface
Collection
Zone

Figure 14 - Effect of Frother on Gas Holdup

Figure 15 - Effect of Bias on Gas Holdup

from Dobby & Finch - 1988

from Dobby & Finch - 1988

Increased gas velocity also results in a higher possibility of feed water reporting to the overflow (Figure
14) which lowers the purity of the froth product.

CPT Column

6.4

Froth Zone Theory

Page 33

FROTHER CONCENTRATION

For applications where frothers are used, an increase in frother concentration has an effect similar to
that of high air addition rates. The froth zone gas holdup (Figure 15) decreases causing lower froth
percent solids and a decrease in froth grade. High frother dosages, especially when combined with
high air rates, can be detrimental to column performance.
Feed Water in Froth (%)
20

40

60

80

Polaris

Froth
Zone

>2.5 cm/s

Jg

Grade

60

80

40

76

72

20
<1.5 cm/s

Recovery

Interface

Feed Water

Bias
Water

Collection
Zone

84

Concentrate Grade (%Pb)

80

Pb Recovery (%)

Froth Depth (approx. 1.0 m)

Overflow

0.08

0.16

0.24

0.32

0.40

Superficial Wash Velocity - J w (cm/s)

6.5

Figure 16 - Effect of Jg on Entrainment

Figure 17 - Wash Water Grade/Recovery

from Dobby & Finch - 1988

from Kosick & Kuehn - 1987

SUPERFICIAL BIAS RATE

A change in the superficial bias flow can also influence the gas holdup (Figure 16). Increased wash
water flow rates reduce the amount of coalescence that occurs by minimising inter-bubble contact. At
very high addition rates, bubble collapse due to impaction and washing (depends on both flow and
wash water distribution design) may occur. Any improvement in performance resulting from an
increased positive bias (Figure 17) suddenly disappears when channelling of the wash water begins.
The drop is illustrated in Figure 17 and Figure 18. As the superficial bias velocity (Jb) is increased
from 0.1 cm/s to 0.3 cm/s, in Figure 11, less feed water is found in the overflowing froth. This
changes with a sudden transition somewhere between 0.3 and 0.5 cm/s (the exact flow will depend
on the design of the wash water header). Figure 19 illustrates the entrainment relationship, in a
mechanical cell, with feed water that reports to the flotation product. Three different sized particles
are shown: 5, 10 and 20 micrometers. Manual changes in the wash water rate will alter the superficial
bias rate when using level, or displacement bias control method.

CPT Column

Froth Zone Theory

Page 34

Feed Water in Froth (%)


20

40

60

80

Overflow
5

Froth Depth (approx. 1.0 m)

40
10

Froth Zone

Jb ~0.1 cm/s

Solids Recovery (%)

Jb ~0.5 cm/s

Jb ~0.3 cm/s

30

20
20

10

Interface
Collection
Zone
20

40

Figure 18 - Effect of Jb on Feed Water in Conc

Figure 19 - Recovery of Solids Vs Water

from Dobby & Finch - 1988

Column Size 45 x 45 x 1,200 cm


Molybdenum

60

30

Pyrite

Interface

Wash Water Input

Concentrate Grade (%)

70

20

Chalcopyrite

10

Silica
0

60

Water Recovery (%)

50

100

150

Distance Below Column Lip (cm)

Figure 20 - Grade & Selectivity with Depth


from Dobby & Finch - 1988

CPT Column

6.6

Froth Zone Theory

Page 35

SELECTIVITY

Selectivity occurs in the froth zone; the less floatable particles drop back into the collection zone as
indicated in Fig 20. In this diagram Silica, Chalcopyrite and Pyrite grade reductions are traced.
There is also a size class selection. Larger particles are usually the ones that remain locked and are
therefore "middling" in nature and subject to washing. Larger particles project further from the bubble
surface and are subject to more force from the passing wash water stream.

6.7

REFERENCES

Amelunxen, R.L., (1985). The Mechanics of Operation of Column Flotation Machines.


Proceedings of the 17th Annual CMP Meeting, Ottawa, January 1985
Egan, J.R., Fairweather, M.J., and Meekel, W.A., (1988). Applications of Column Flotation to Lead and
Zinc Beneficiation at Cominco.
1st International Symposium on Column Flotation, AIME, Phoenix
del Villar, R., Gomez, C.O., Finch, J.A., and Espinosa-Gomez, R.,(1989). Flotation column
amenability and scale-up parameter estimation tests. C.I.M. International Symposium on the Processing
of Complex Ores, Halifax.
Dobby, G.S., and Finch, J.A., (1988). Column Short Course, Cambourne School of Mines, Cornwall,
England.
Huls, B.J., Lachance, C.D., and Dobby, G.S., (1989). Gas rate and froth depth effects on performance
of a Cu-Ni separation flotation column. C.I.M. International Symposium on the Processing of Complex
Ores, Halifax.
Wheeler, D.A., (1988). Historical View of Column Cell Development. Presented at 1st Int. Symp. on
Column Flotation, A.I.M.E., Phoenix
Wilson, S.W., (1987). The Study of Flotation Column Rate Constants as a Function of Particle Size.
B.A.Sc. Thesis, Dept. of Geological Engineering, University of Toronto.

CPT Column

Production Column Testing

7.0
7.1

Page 36

PRODUCTION COLUMN TESTING

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of conducting testwork is to determine the optimum parameter settings to maximise
column performance under varying plant operating conditions. Generally, a column operates best
under steady-state conditions; the fewer disturbances in the system the better. Considering this,
operation should be as smooth as possible, and any changes in interface level, wash water, air or
reagent additions should be made slowly.

When performing testwork, a minimum number of variables should be changed at one time ideally only one - so that the fewest number of effects interact.

It is important to remember that a column has a significant residence time and therefore an ability to
accumulate floatable solids through internal recycle. If solids are building up due to insufficient air rate
or other froth transport problems, excellent grades can be achieved without immediately sacrificing
recovery. These solids, however, will eventually report to the underflow resulting in a significant
deterioration of metallurgical performance. High solids loading may cause excessive coalescence in
the froth zone and appear as "burping" or "volcanoes" in the froth. Therefore, whenever a grade /
recovery curve is being constructed, values should not be recorded until a steady state is reached which may take as long as three column residence times after the last change.

7.2

AIR RATE

The amount of material floated is very sensitive to the rate of air introduced through the spargers. In
the first few days of operation with a new type of feed material, the reagent dosages and air flow rate
should be adjusted to give optimal grade/recovery performance. Record the air loading (amount of
solids carried per unit of air) as kg/m3. When the column feed rate changes, repeat the test. The
purpose of these tests is to create a chart of air requirement Vs overflow tonnage production that can
be used by operators. The amount of air needed to float a specific amount of solids is dependant on
both the particle size and the bubble size. A decrease in particle size will increase the required air
while an decrease in bubble size will decrease the required air.

CPT Column

7.3

Production Column Testing

Page 37

WASH WATER BIAS

Jb values should be determined for each test in order to optimise the wash water addition rate. During
these tests the feed tonnage and all operating parameters should remain constant while the wash
water is altered.
As wash water addition is reduced from the optimum, a slight, possibly unnoticeable, decrease in
froth purity should occur. This will be accompanied by a decrease in the overflow percent solids. This
relationship between the bias flow and decreasing percent solids continues until a critical point is
reached at which time some water from the pulp zone moves upward and overflows with the froth.
When this happens, the column is said to be operating at negative bias and entrainment of fine
impurities in the froth will increase.
At high gas rates the froth will be much more turbulent causing both a higher froth density and
entrainment at higher bias rates.
As the water addition is increased, the recovery of gangue to overflow will begin to decrease and the
froth density will increase. As the water is further increased, larger particles and middling particles will
begin to detach from the bubbles causing a decrease in the recovery of the floated minerals. This will
continue until channelling of the wash water occurs in the froth, or the wash water beats the froth too
severely causing collapse. These conditions will cause a rapid deterioration of performance.
Under normal production rates the wash water should be increased until performance deteriorates.
This value is the maximum wash water rate. This upper flowrate should be consistent at different
production rates.
The minimum wash water rate can be determined by reducing the wash water flow until froth impurity
levels become too high. This lower limit will depend on the production rate.

7.4

OPERATING LEVEL

Both the maximum and minimum column froth levels should be determined.
The maximum froth depth or lowest pulp level is the point at which the froth collapses. This level will
depend on the gas rate, reagent concentration, and the amount of solids being floated. Generally,
there is little benefit to operating at depths greater than 1,000 mm.
The minimum froth depth or highest froth pulp level is the point where insufficient froth cleaning
occurs. Significant entrainment can occur when operating with very shallow froths.
The column should be able to maintain performance at interface levels as high as 400 mm below the
lip, possibly higher, and also retain a stable froth while operating as low as 2,000 mm.

CPT Column

Production Column Testing

Page 38

While operating under steady conditions, slowly alter the level and note any changes in grade and
recovery. Use this information to construct a grade / recovery curve Vs interface level response plot
at varied air rates.

7.5

BUBBLE SIZE

Bubble size is a column parameter that is not monitored very frequently. It will affect the carrying
capacities of the column and possibly the selectivity of different size fractions.
Bubble size can be altered somewhat by changing the sparger system pressure. This pressure
should be altered to determine the grade / recovery response. For finer particle sizes, recovery is
usually better when smaller bubbles are generated. Bubble size can also be significantly affected by
frother addition. Note, however, that use of frother addition solely to control bubble size, especially in
circuits incorporating recirculating streams, can lead to serious frother overdoses.

7.6

RESIDENCE TIME

The following equation is used to determine the column slurry residence time:

sl ( min ) =

60 Ac ( H c - H spa - H f )(1 - col / sl )


V conc

Where4

Ac

column area (m2)

Hspa

sparger height from base (m)

Hc

total column height (m)

Hf

interface level (m)

col

collection zone density (t/m3)

slu5

concentrate slurry density (t/m3)

Vconc

concentrate volumetric flowrate (m3/hr)

Collection zone volume = dc2(Hc - Hspa - Hf)


Gas holdup = 1- (col)
sl

As determined by sampling the underflow line density or on-line density meter.

CPT Column

7.7

Production Column Testing

Page 39

WASH WATER DISTRIBUTOR HEIGHT

For columns using a submerged in-froth style wash water distribution system, the position of the
wash water distribution pipes can influence the froth characteristics. When the pipes are set deep into
the froth bed, the efficiency of cleaning will improve. There will less short circuiting of wash water to
the column overflow and this will result in an increase in the froth density. Froth zone recovery may
decrease slightly.
If the distributor is positioned right at the froth surface it may interfere with transport of froth to the
launders. When the distributor is located above the froth, froth density will be lower due to some short
circuiting of water to the column overflow. This will result in a slight decrease in cleaning efficiency.
Tests should be conducted with the distributor at different positions to determine the performance
characteristics of the system. Maintain as many variables constant as possible and vary the
distributor height. Record the recovery and concentrate density.

7.8

SAMPLING

All sampling should be standardised and samples should easy to obtain.


Sampling should commence at t = 3 x NRT (nominal residence time) after the last parameter change.
Samples should consist of a composite of at least three (3) separate cuts taken at timed intervals. For
example, one cut every 5 minutes over a fifteen minute period will generate a four cut composite.
Sample all streams and obtain the wet and dry weights. Assay, then calculate the mass balances.
Sample sizes should be large enough to allow future screen analyses, possible including chemical
screen analyses or size-by-assay.
Note - it is also advisable to use a stopwatch to record the exact collection period for each sample,
and to also record the wet sample volume. These data can then be used to determine volumetric flow
rates, which can, in turn, be used as a check against material balances calculated from assays.
Use a results table similar to Table I for each test. If possible, O.S.A. results and feed, concentrate
and wash water flow charts should be included covering a period of two column residence times.

7.9

COLLECTION ZONE DENSITY ESTIMATION

If the column has been equipped with pressure transducers, the collection zone density can be
estimated by raising the interface level to the a point just below the overflow lip and reading the
pressure transducer signal. This estimation will only be good at one point on a density contour which
is a function of air rate, slurry velocity, and bubble size.

CPT Column

7.10

Production Column Testing

Page 40

FROTH ZONE DENSITY ESTIMATION

Density can be estimated by lowering the level of the interface from one point to another while noting
the pressure readings of both levels. The pressure difference will be a function of the difference
between the densities and level. This represents only one point on a continual plane which is a
function of feed grade, feed rate, reagent concentration, air rate, and wash water rate.

A typical column cell test data sheet is shown below. This sheet is intended as an example. Data
sheets suitable to each specific application should be prepared on site to reflect actual conditions,
analyses, etc.

Prior to column cell testing, the geometry of the cell should be accurately recorded to allow
calculation of the several key column performance parameters, such as carrying rate, bias rate, gas
holdup, etc.

CPT Column

7.11

Production Column Testing

Page 41

COLUMN TEST DATA SHEET - SAMPLE

Test Number:

Date:

Objective:

Time:

Feed Conditions

Reagents

Source

Conditioning Time

min

Rate

t/h

Concentration

% or mg/L

Solids SG

kg / L

Addition Rate

L / min

Slurry Density

% sol

Dosage

g/t

kg / L
Operating Data

Calculated Data

Interface Level

cm

Bias Rate - Jb

cm/s

Air Supply Pressure

kPa

Gas Rate - Jg

cm/s

Air DeliveryPressure

kPa

Gas Holdup - Eg

Air Rotameter

units

Carrying Rate - Ca

t / h ?m

Standard Air Rate

Nm /h

Lip Loading - Cl

t / h ?m

Wash Water

m /h

Gas Loading - Cg

kg / m

Conc Particle Size

D80

Residence Time

min

Sampling and Analysis

Product

Sampling Conditions
Time
Volume
Rate
sec
mL
mL / min

Wet Wt
g

Slurry Data
Dry Wt
g

Density
kg / L

Met 1
%

Assays
Met 2
%

Assays
%Met 2

%Met 3

Met 1

Distributions
Met 2

Met 3

%Sol

t/h

Feed
Conc
Tail
Metallurgical Balance
Solids
Product
Feed

t/h

Wt%

%Met 1

Solids
Wt%

S.G.

Conc
Tails
Material Balance
Stream
Feed
Wash
Conc
Tails

t/h

Water
3

m /h

Slurry
S.G.

m /h

Met 3
%