In the ferronickel production process, mineral calcination is one of the most energy-intensive stages. In a typical rotary kiln calciner, particulate solids and combustions gases move counter currently, while solids undergo drying, pre-reduction, and partial reduction reactions. The combustion of natural gas provides the thermal energy for drying and reduction reactions. About 80 to 85% of the incoming laterite ore leaves the reactor as calcined ore, while the flue gases entrain part of the solids as dust. This work presents a theoretical analysis contrasted with experimental results to evaluate the partial reduction of laterite ores in two rotary kilns of 185 m and 135 m length. The study focused on the water formed in the process, including a comparative analysis of water consumption by two different solids recovery technologies, a gas scrubber and an electrostatic precipitator. Simulations allowed evaluating the water and greenhouse gas formation in the main streams of the process. Among the tested operation conditions, the moisture content in the pellets, consisting of agglomerated dust, strongly influenced the amount of water released in the process and the energy consumption. Furnace RK-2 needs approximately 56% more energy to evaporate the moisture content in the feedstock. Furthermore, furnace RK-2 released 55.4 m3h−1 of water into the atmosphere, which represented two times the amount released by furnace RK-1. Gas scrubber analysis showed that as the liquid water increased, more H2O in the gases was condensed; however, the destroyed exergy also increased. Electrostatic precipitators appear as an adequate technology for reducing water and energy consumption in the ferronickel industry.

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