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Recovery of Metals from Petroleum Waste Byproducts

Date Posted
USPN 10,323,298


Research is active on the development of techniques for the economic recovery of valuable metals from petroleum gasification waste products. This invention is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.


The gasification of carbon feedstocks is used to generate syngas to produce electric power or to synthesize chemicals. Unfortunately, this process also generates waste materials that have few applications, with the majority being landfilled. Petcoke, a byproduct of petroleum processing, is utilized as a carbon feedstock in gasification, generating an ash byproduct high in nickel (Ni) and vanadium (V). Elemental Ni and V are listed in the U.S DOE 2011 Critical Materials Strategy, and are used in advanced technology products such as metal hydride batteries, redox batteries, and specialty alloys. Currently, the U.S. relies on foreign sources of these materials to meet most domestic manufacturing needs.    

The high Ni and V content in petcoke ash byproduct represents a potential source of these elements if an economically viable recovery process can be developed. Current methods for the extraction of Ni and V from petroleum waste byproducts use conventional separation techniques, such as chemical leaching. However, because Ni and V from petcoke gasifier ash are also dissolved in the vitrified slag (or glass), leaching methods for their recovery would require a multi-stage approach that is time consuming and expensive. The complex leaching processes also require the use of large quantities of strong acids, making them environmentally unsuitable.

This invention describes a single-stage process for the extraction of Ni and V from petroleum waste byproducts. The novel process represents a simplified and more environmentally friendly approach for the high yield and high purity extraction of Ni and V. Using this process, Ni and V are both ‘lifted’ above the waste matrix surface, making subsequent separation easier using simple beneficiation processes such as magnetic and gravity techniques; minimizing or eliminating the need for leaching, crushing, and grinding stages. 

  • More economically feasible and environmentally friendly approach for the high yield extraction of Ni and V from petroleum waste byproducts
  • Selective extraction of high purity Ni and V with negligible impurities
  • Process uses a one-stage heat treatment step to extract Ni and V
  • No acid solutions are required for metal extraction
  • The extracted products form ‘above’ the surface of the waste matrix, allowing for simplified and economical separation
  • Reduces the environmental burden of disposal of petroleum waste byproducts
  • Process may complement current gasification and metallurgical processes by using on-site ash byproducts and/or existing thermal energy, eliminating the need (and cost) of heating the byproduct for metal extraction
  • Extraction method produces process byproducts (carbon monoxide and excess heat) from the exothermic reaction that can be used for power generation
  • A process that produces carbon monoxide, heat, and valuable metals simultaneously would be possible
  • Extraction of Ni and V from petroleum waste byproducts
  • Process may be applicable for the extraction of Ni and V from metallurgical ash/slag, oil refinery waste, and natural ores

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