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Extracting aluminum from aluminous clays

  1. Nov 30, 2011 #1
    Hello, I am looking for opinions on the commercial feasibility of extracting aluminum from aluminous clays. The process is described in the following patent filing:


    There is a company called Orbite Aluminae that is developing this technology, and I am wrestling with the merits of investing in it. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 12, 2011 #2


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    That process is going to be very expensive.

    The new process digests everything in acid using a lot of HCl. Many of the impurities are dissolved in the process. The dissolved liquor is concentrated by distilling 90% of the acid away which is very expensive. The remaining liquor is treated with sodium hydroxide until the iron oxides precipitate and filtered. It is then reacidified and the complexing agent and kerosene added. Then it is extracted with HOLLOW TUBE MEMBRANE (!!!) equipment to extract out the organic material which contains the aluminum. The kerosene layer is then extracted with additional HCl and then NaOH is added to the acidic extract to isolate sodium aluminate from which alumina is recovered just as in the Bayer process. Very expensive and a bit rube goldberg if you ask me.

    Compare all that with the Bayer process:

    Crush ore and extract with hot NaOH. Filter and cool filtrate. Precipitate very pure alumina. Recycle NaOH solution.
  4. Dec 12, 2011 #3
    Thank you very much for your input and expertise! I should have known that the story sounded too good to be true. Cheers!
  5. Dec 12, 2012 #4

    Disclaimer: I work for Orbite Aluminae and have a chemical engineering background.

    Just to clarify, the acid used in our leaching process is recycled (closed loop process), with 99.75% recovery. Our process was also validated on a commercial scale, and we were producing 1 ton per day of smelter grade alumina for 18 months. The quality and specifications of the alumina we produced was analyzed by independent third parties, and met or exceeded current industry standards. The same plant was converted to our high purity alumina plant (1 ton per day is not much in the smelter grade alumina world, but is significant in the ultra high purity alumina market), which is currently being commissioned and is scheduled for start-up in Q1 2013. Our smelter grade alumina plant is scheduled for comissioning in 2015.

    Please also realize that we have a total of 13 patent / patent pending families, and there is also a significant portion of our IP that is confidential. Patents taken individually will only give you a glimpse of our process (this of course is by design, as we are keen on protecting our IP).

    The bottom line is that our process works, and was demonstrated on a commercial scale with our 1 ton per day smelter alumina grade plant, and the same technology is used for our high purity alumina.

    Economically speaking, we are at the bottom of the industry cost curve for smelter grade alumina (please refer to page 14 of our October 2012 corporate presentation, available on the 1st page of our website: orbitealuminae.com).

    Regarding the Bayer process, I must humbly disagree with chemisttree. The Bayer process has significant limitations. The feed-stock needs have a low silica content (dissolves in NaOH), which was not a problem 125 years ago, but it is becoming more and more difficult to find good quality ore. Except for a few exceptions (such as India) this ore is also shipped across long distances. This, combined with the vast amounts of red muds produced, makes the the environmental impact of the Bayer process absolutely horrible.

    Our process has none of these drawbacks.

    I invite you to check our website for additional details (orbitealuminae.com), and I will be glad to answer additional questions you may have.
    Thanks and cheers,


    “All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.*” Arthur Schöpenhauer
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