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Canadian companies want to extract nickel, vanadium, cobalt from petcoke

Petcoke. Photo by the US EPA, Wikimedia Commons.

MGX Minerals (CSE: XMG) and Highbury Energy have partnered to prepare a detailed process to extract metals such as nickel, vanadium, and cobalt from petroleum coke.

According to a press release, Highbury’s experts in thermochemical gasification are assisting MGX in designing a process to generate hydrogen gas and concentrate metals in the form of ash byproduct. Since petcoke is itself a carbon byproduct of the oil refining process, it concentrates the denser impurities found in the base material, which is bitumen. Such impurities are usually metals and sulphur compounds and those are the components the companies are aiming to extract.

Highbury has already completed a Phase I report on potential processes and markets for primary and secondary byproducts, while a Phase II study has started and it includes analyses of locations, laboratory bench top feedstock results, advanced process design and initial plant design parameters.

The project is led by Highbury co-founder Paul Watkinson. He is also a professor emeritus in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia and has conducted in-depth studies around the conversion of carbonaceous solids, such as coal, shale and biomass, into gaseous and liquid fuels.

His idea is to work with some of the petcoke stockpiles that can be found around the Alberta oil sands and whose inventories, according to the provincial Energy Regulator, are estimated at 106 million tonnes.

In the media statement, MGX President and CEO Jared Lazerson said that these plans are in line with some of the projects his company took on over the last year, such as one in which they started recovering minerals from treated wastewater brine. Similarly, he said, “MGX and Highbury will look to develop a process that utilizes gasification methods to concentrate metals from petcoke. We believe entry into an untapped market of this magnitude aligns perfectly with our business strategy of creating innovative processes and technology to shape the new energy economy.”