Pickling is one of the most important steps in steel manufacturing industry. During the process, an acid reacts with the surface oxides causing metal ions accumulation in the pickling solution. Disposal of the waste acid represents a critical issue for the hot-dip galvanizing industry in terms of environmental damage and high costs. Recovering of the main products by using an integrated process, with the perspective of a circular approach, could minimize the wastewater production, leading to reinvigorate this industrial sector economy. In this context, recovery of the metal ions mainly present in the pickling solution, such as Fe and Zn, becomes a critical issue.
In this work, the reactive precipitation process reliability was proved through lab-scale experiments, in order to collect information for the design of a pilot-plant to be installed in the Tecnozinco SrL (Carini, Italy) hot-dip galvanizing plant. Experiments were carried out in a continuous stirred tank reactor by feeding the acidic metals-rich stream, an alkaline reactant and an oxidant. The quantity of Fe in the outlet solution and its speciation in the precipitate were detected to evaluate the recovery efficiency and the process quality, whereas Zn concentration in the precipitated was detected for determining the product purity. Some key parameters, such as temperature and pH, were studied by varying inlet streams flow rates. A very effective metals separation was observed by obtaining Fe(III) hydroxide at a high purity of 99 %. Zn ions were successfully separated by keeping them in solution with the aim of generating a zinc/ammonium chloride stream, to be reused in the fluxing baths of the hot-dip galvanizing plant.