Acid separation using short bed ion exchange is a now well established technology in copper refinery tankhouses. Refinery bleed streams from liberator cells are treated by short bed systems
to produce an acid-free byproduct stream that contains the bleed metals and valuable nickel salts. Removing the acid eliminates the need for a black acid evaporator and reduces the amount of
sodium carbonate required in nickel selective precipitation processes.
The recovered sulfuric acid can be recycled to the tankhouse. This same technology is routinely used to treat other acids such as hydrochloric, nitric, and hydrofluoric. In the case of hydrochloric acid, the process can selectively separate chloro-anionic complexes such as Zn, Pb, and Cu, which are then eluted with water. The acid recovery technology can also be closely coupled with ion exchange processes in order to minimize regenerant acid consumption. In many hydrometallurgical applications resin regeneration often requires an acid dosage multiple times the stoichiometric minimum. Coupling an acid recovery bed with the IX column allows recovery and recycle of the free acid in the spent regenerant, thus reducing the overall acid consumption to just slightly more than stoichiometric.
The short bed ion exchange process has been extensively used in the metal finishing industries since the early 1970s [1,2]. Short bed systems have also been sold to primary metals producers
for the separation of sulfuric acid from copper refinery bleed streams  and for the recovery of nickel and cobalt from plant effluent streams. This unique technology optimizes the ion
exchange process and offers a number of significant advantages over conventional ion exchange. The principal features and benefits of this technology are presented.