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Sulphuric Acid on the WebTM Technical Manual DKL Engineering, Inc.

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Sulphuric Acid Plant Specifications

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Acid Plant Database January 6, 2010

Owner Atlantic Copper

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Background Formerly
Rio Tinto Company, Ltd.
1977 - Name Changed to Rio Tinto Minera, S.A.
1995 - Atlantic Copper, S.A. formed from the smelting and refining part of the business
1998 - Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. becomes sole shareholder of the company www.fcx.com
Location Avda./ Francisco Montenegro, s/n
21001 Huelva
Website www.atlantic-copper.es
Plant Plant No. 1 Plant No. 2 Plant No. 3
Coordinates* 37° 13' 38" N, 6° 56' 52" W 37° 13' 37" N, 6° 56 '51" W 37° 13' 42" N, 6° 56' 46" W
Type of Plant Metallurgical
Gas Source Copper
Outotec Flash Furnace
Peirce-Smith Converters (2 blowing, 2 standby)
Gas Cleaning

Lurgi: Radial Flow Scrubbers (8) - Gas Cooling Tower (4) - 1st Stage WESP (5) - 2nd Stage WESP (5)

Plant Capacity 1550 MTPD(1)
(1735 MTPD)
180,000 Nm3/h, 5-10% SO2
550 MTPD(1)
(700 MTPD)
65,000 Nm3/h, 6-9% SO2
900 MTPD(1)
(1267 MTPD)
115,000 Nm3/h, 5-11% SO2
SA/DA 3/2 DA, > 99.6% DA, >99.6% 3/2 DA, >99.8%
Emissions - - -
Status Operating Operating Operating
Year Built 1971 1975 1996
Technology Outotec (Lurgi) Outotec (Lurgi) Outotec (Lurgi)
Contractors Outotec (Lurgi) Outotec (Lurgi) Outotec (Lurgi)
Remarks - - -
Pictures Atlantic Copper - Huelva 1.jpg (152035 bytes)  Atlantic Copper - Huelva 2.jpg (18082 bytes)  Atlantic Copper - Huelva 3.jpg (59593 bytes)  Atlantic-Copper-4.jpg (106593 bytes)  Atlantic_Copper_-_Huelva_PFD.jpg (57506 bytes) 
General The history of Atlantic Copper dates back to 1873, when a group of British bankers and businessmen purchased the Rio Tinto mines from the Spanish Government to establish The Rio Tinto Company, Ltd. At its peak, there were some 14,000 workers, 150 kilometers of railway track and a pier in the port of Huelva where copper and pyrite ore were loaded for export.   In 1970, the smelter and refinery were commissioned next to the port of Huelva . In 1993 Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc acquired Rio Tinto Minera, S.A. beginning a new era for the company, with the rationalization and growth of its industrial activity.  1994, the company decided to concentrate its efforts on the metallurgy business, investing more than 200 million euros to double Huelva's smelting and refining capacity and ensure the company's compliance with environmental requirements.  Following the expansion of the Huelva plant, by 1996 the company reached a production capacity of 310,000 MT of copper anodes and a refining capacity of 260,000 MT of cathodes, smelting more than one million MT of copper concentrate.  Atlantic Copper sold its assets in Córdoba (Colada Continua) and Barcelona (Trefilería) to focus exclusively on the production of primary copper from copper concentrate.  Today, Atlantic Copper is the heir to a long tradition resulting from years of experience and a staff of professionals who have built the company into a very important actor in the production of copper: a raw material that can be recycled indefinitely and therefore contributes to the sustainability of human development.

Atlantic Copper is one of the world's most important producers of copper. Thanks to investments and the rationalization of our productive process, we are capable of producing approximately 310,000 MT of copper anodes, 260,000 MT of which are refined into copper cathodes with a copper content of more than 99.99%; the main by-products are sulfuric acid (around 1 million MT) and electrolytic slimes rich in gold ( 25 MT) and silver ( 75 MT) . The principal raw material is copper concentrate which Atlantic Copper receives from mines, smelting approximately one million MT.
Atlantic Copper is the largest producer in Spain (and the second in Europe ) of this raw material, which is so important for the fertilizer industry and other branches of the chemical industry.
All of the SO2 produced during the process of concentrates smelting is treated in order to transform it into sulfuric acid.
Sulfuric acid is obtained in the three Acid Plants. The system used is by contact with catalysts of vanadium and caesium pentoxide. The three plants include double absorption and double contact technology, allowing a sulfur recovery of more than 99.8%.
The sulfuric acid is stored and then distributed either by homologated pipeline or by tanker trucks .

The terminal includes the following installations:

•  One storage tank of 12,000 MT.
•  Railway spur to unload tank cars.
•  Installation for loading / unloading trucks.
•  Wharf for loading and unloading ships.

The weak acid originating from the Acid Plants is used to produce artificial gypsum, and Atlantic Copper produces some 240 tons per day. This product is used in construction, cement plants, for the reinforcing and sealing of waste dumps, etc.

Reference (1) Sulphur 2014, "Smelter Acid Outlook", Ricardo Martinez Sanz

October 2, 2009 - Spain's Atlantic Copper, part of Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., has raised production at its Huelva smelter by 10-15 percent since the beginning of August, it said on Friday.  A company official said the increase would raise the smelter's output to 300,000 tonnes per year of copper anodes and was due to improvements in efficiency and using more oxygen in the furnace.  Anodes are basic copper blocks that are later refined.  Encouraged by higher prices, some metal producers have started to reverse earlier cutbacks and project delays, prompted around mid-2008 by plunging demand.  The official added that Atlantic Copper was selling all the sulphuric acid produced by the smelter, despite a leading client closing a plant in the southwestern port of Huelva.  "We are placing all of our acid," the official said.  Fertiliser maker Fertiberia used to buy 30 percent of the 1 million tonnes of sulphuric acid -- a by-product of copper smelting -- produced annually in Huelva.  Spanish farmers say they have used a lot less fertiliser this year because a collapse in grain prices GRAES01 has forced them to cut back on production costs.   The official added that Atlantic had invested 20 million euros ($29 million) in the past two years in extending port facilities to handle acid.  Clients included parent company Freeport's installations in the Americas, a net importer of sulphuric acid produced in Europe and Asia.  Last year, Atlantic Copper said it sold about 300,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid a year on the spot market, which it hoped to raise to 500,000 a year in 2009 and 2010.  Some copper and zinc smelters were forced to cut their output earlier this year because they ran out of space to store hazardous sulphuric acid in the face of poor demand for the by-product.  However, some plants have returned to full production due to improvements in the sulphuric acid market.

September 24, 2009 - Atlantic Copper can offload the sulphuric acid produced by its copper smelter even though Fertiberia, a Spanish fertiliser company and a major consumer of its by-product, has shut its plant in Huelva, Spain, according to a company official. Concerns have mounted about how the Spanish smelter has been getting rid of its sulphuric acid after Fertiberia shut one of its fertiliser plants in Huelva, where the Spanish producer has its own plant. “We’re placing all our sulphuric acid,” the official said. Fertiberia shut its plant several months ago, although there is talk the the company is looking to reopen it, according to market sources. About 30% of Atlantic Copper’s sulphuric acid output, equivalent to 300,000 tpy, was feeding Fertiberia before the closure, with the rest being shipped to the Americas, where Freeport uses acid for leaching, and to Europe, the Mediterranean and Morocco. There is a strong fertiliser industry in Morocco, market participants said.

MTPD - Metric Tonne per Day           STPD - Short Ton per Day
MTPA - Metric Tonne per Annum      STPA - Short Ton per Annum
SA - Single Absorption
DA - Double Absorption

* Coordinates can be used to locate plant on Google Earth