A pilot magnesium processing plant is currently under production in Gladstone, using unique technology developed in Australia and incorporating a significant stainless steel component.
The Australian Magnesium (AM) process (now owned by the Australian Magnesium Corporation - Brisbane, Qld) was jointly developed by Queensland Metals Corporation (QMC - Brisbane, Qld) and CSIRO to process the type of magnesite ore discovered by QMC near Rockhampton into highly pure magnesium metal.
The process incorporates a number of patented features which will be demonstrated and refined at the pilot plant in Gladstone on its completion in mid-1998. The AM process involves the use of a variety of harsh acids, requiring the specification of stainless steel grades such as 2205, 2507, 2RK65, 904L, 316L and 316H to withstand a range of corrosion environments.
Approximately $1.5 million has been spent on stainless steel components for the magnesium pilot plant, including stainless piping, pumps, compressors, tanks and shell and tube heat exchangers.
Eight fabricators supplied the components, including D & R Stainless (Salisbury, Qld), who fabricated seven stainless steel vessels using material ranging from 3mm to 13mm in thickness.
If the project progresses to full production of 90,000 tonnes of magnesium per year, the plant will be 60 times larger than the pilot plant and the cost will expand to around $800 million. Construction is currently planned to commence towards the end of 1999 and commercial operations should begin at the end of 2002.
Magnesium is commonly used for automotive parts, such as instrument support panels, seat frames, transmission casings and rocker covers. Other common uses for magnesium are in laptop computer frames, chainsaw bodies and sporting equipment such as tennis racquets.
This article featured in Australian Stainless Issue 11, March 1998.