Turning Ideas into Reality through Innovative Research and Development

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Ironstone Resources is committed to ongoing research and development, a crucial component of driving innovation, and a key factor in developing new competitive advantages for the company. Research and development will enable Ironstone to generate new market opportunities over time, to the benefit of its stakeholders, the province and Canada as a whole.

Ironstone supports Alberta’s vision of building new innovation capacity in the province by conducting and supporting world-class research to develop new processes and products that will spin out new innovative companies that will attract creative and resourceful people to the Peace Country and the province. 

As markets continue to rapidly embrace green products, Ironstone will continue to expand its research and development capacity in partnership with individuals, colleges, universities and government, to make eco-friendly products out of natural ingredients, recycled materials or biodegradable substances.

Innovation is an important factor in Ironstones's growth strategy and will help sustain our competitive advantage. 

Examples of Ironstone and its Partners Driving Innovation

Hatch–Ironstone CS Process for High Phosphorous Iron Ores

Ironstone, in conjunction with Hatch, has developed a multi-stage direct reduction/iron segregation process (HICS) designed to produce alternative iron units (AIU) in HBI form (hot briquetted iron). The HICS technology is designed to beneficiate high phosphorous iron ores, including oolitic ores, into merchantable DRI suitable for use in an electric arc furnace (EAF) as a feedstock supplement for scrap metal.

Prototyping HICS reactor prior to conducting pilot tests

Prototyping HICS reactor prior to conducting pilot tests

Ironstone incorporated the most technologically advanced equipment and processes developed by industry leaders under the supervision of Hatch Associates, a globally recognized engineering consulting firm, based in Mississauga, Ontario. Hatch's integrated and multi-disciplinary team included expertise in process metallurgy, reactor design, computational fluid dynamics, computational thermodynamics, mineral processing, innovation technologies, process engineering and management consulting.

The process being developed builds on the traditional direct reduced iron (“DRI”) process and is named the Hatch-Ironstone Chloride Segregation (“HICS”) process. The HICS/DRI process is designed to produce metallic iron from the Clear Hills oolitic iron ore that can be concentrated into a high grade DRI feedstock for the steel industry. The associated vanadium pentoxide deports to the tails after magnetic separation of the metallic iron, where it can be extracted and then used in the steelmaking stage, or further refined into an electrolyte for use in renewable energy storage flow batteries.

The HICS/DRI process has been in development since 2010 and has involved a growing world-class team including Hazen Research (“Hazen”), SGS Lakefield, Kingston Process Metallurgy, FLSmidth, Ortech Research, and NELS Consulting Services. The nature of process development requires careful experimental work and pilot testing to achieve commercial scale. Ironstone and Hatch have conducted the testing sequentially in several stages of scale-ups after successfully proving the process flow sheet at each previous stage.

The basic understanding of all the chemical reactions and influence of the operating parameters were obtained through batch reactor testing completed between 2011 – 2012. Two continuous reactor tests were then performed during 2012 with the objective of demonstrating that the process could reach a stable and continuous operation while achieving iron metallization above 90%. The next step for Ironstone and Hatch will involve testing the HICS/DRI process at a commercial scale by performing integrated pilot plant tests at a suitable pilot facility.

The HICS/DRI process contains six main modules: (1) ore preparation, (2) calcination, (3) primary reduction, (4) chloride segregation, (5) mineral processing, and (6) agglomeration. Continuous process pilot tests through the chloride segregation stage have been successfully conducted.

Ironstone has demonstrated that the HICS/DRI process is capable of producing commercial quality AIU containing 90% iron, 0.12% phosphorous and 0.3% carbon. Additional mineral processing evaluations involving optimizing the magnetic separation of the metallic iron after iron reduction is to be conducted commencing in late 2016.


"Pollutants to Products" Innovation at GPRC

Ironstone and Grande Prairie Regional College have developed an alliance to collaborate on skills development, cooperative research and the development of new innovative processes and products derived from Ironstone's Clear Hills mineral deposit and manufacturing operations. From supporting and implementing GPRC's carbon capture innovations, exploring novel carbonation techniques to sequester greenhouse gasses in building products, or exploring new applications in energy metals – Ironstone is excited to partner with the Peace Country's premier college.

GPRC's "Pollutants to Products" carbon capture research is a key area of research interest for Ironstone Resources

GPRC's "Pollutants to Products" carbon capture research is a key area of research interest for Ironstone Resources

Grande Prairie Regional College is developing a transformative solar-based solution to reducing and eliminating industry-emitted greenhouse gasses through the use of its innovative "Pollutants to Products" (P2P) microalgae-based technology. This novel technology combines the capture and the use of carbon in a single step – directly at source – with co-production of merchantable bio-products.

The P2P technology has made major world-class breakthroughs through 11 years of ongoing R&D by enhancing productivity and reducing costs. GPRC's system has achieved a performance level up to three times better than any other reported systems, through the invention of a patented sunlight dilution method and the use of a pH-balanced medium. The production costs have been significantly reduced by using free sunlight, proprietary low-energy harvesting, and a simple, reliable and durable system design.

With the sales of the resulting bio-products, it is expected that the P2P technology would be cost-effective at startup. This microalgae technology could thus prove to be promising part of the next generation, lower cost carbon capture technologies, and of great benefit to Ironstone in its endeavour to implement fully environmentally sustainable manufacturing operations.


Near-Term Research and development Activities

Ironstone has identified many areas of future research and development activity, including a focus on the concentration and extraction of vanadium and lithium for use in energy storage applications, lightweight expandable clay processes and product development, waste heat conversion, silica-based products, and more. Watch this section for additional information on Ironstone's progress. Ironstone Resources appreciates the support and participation of its private and public partners in its continued R&D endeavours.