Outotec’s research centre has seven decades of finding solutions for clients.
FINLAND – Outotec Research Centre (ORC) in Pori is unique in the industry – its expertise in the minerals and metals processing value chain ranges from ores to finished metals and recycling. The research center was established in 1949, and since then it has been a part of the company’s long term research and development strategy.
ORC has developed numerous cutting-edge technologies. For example, Outotec flash smelting, which is still is one of the world’s most commonly used processes for the production of primary copper and nickel, was developed in ORC at the end of 1940s.
The center’s laboratories conduct tests on raw materials for Outotec’s customers and the related production processes. Current testing capabilities include nine laboratories and pilot plants. Annually, there are approximately 200 research projects with more than 250,000 samples analyzed. Over the decades, ORC has tested virtually all ore types in the world.
There is a genuine need for continuous development of processes since ore deposits are becoming leaner in grade and more difficult to utilize. The conventional methods are often insufficient to make them financially viable. Outotec’s research center supports customers in selecting and, if necessary, developing new solutions for the efficient and environmentally sustainable extraction of valuable minerals from raw materials.
It can take decades for a completely new technology to dominate the markets, but once the technology platform is developed, new applications may quickly be found. This has happened to cobalt and lithium processing technologies in recent years with the electrification of transport.
“The cobalt extraction technology was developed in Pori back in the 1960s. However, recently its value has risen to a new level with the advent of electric transport. Thanks to our continuous research and development work, we are able to offer customers new and efficient ways of processing materials such as battery chemicals,” says Jarkko Partinen, VP of technology and R&D at the Outotec Research Centre.
“Our customers each face unique challenges. It is our job to create solutions that help our customers succeed. We are proud of our process and technology expertise, and having our own research center is a competitive strength. ORC has been characterized by research into environmental protection, the circular economy, and resource efficiency before any of these topics became mainstream. One of the earliest studies, which dates back to 1951 and would nowadays be linked to the circular economy, examined useful applications for sulphur gas roasting residues,” says Kalle Härkki, head of Outotec’s Metals, Energy & Water business area.
ORC employs 180 research and development professionals. Forty-five of them are process and technology development engineers, half of whom hold a doctorate level degree. There is a dedicated group working in modeling and digitalizing process expertise. The laboratories employ more than 100 professionals most of them specialized in building and maintaining test rigs and equipment, conducting the test work planned by the process development engineers, and analyzing samples taken from the tests.
In 2018, the research centre welcomed more than 1,300 visitors, the vast majority of whom were customers, researchers and people attending training.
Learn more about the Outotec Research Centre by clicking here.