Nigerian Clay Deposits for use as Refractory Materials in Metallurgical Industries – A Review

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Nigerian Clay Deposits for use as Refractory Materials in Metallurgical Industries – A Review

1*M. M. Dansarai., 2M. A. Bawa, 3A. Tokan Department of Mechanical/Production Engineering, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Bauchi, Nigeria

Abstract:- Clay is one of the most important materials used by the metallurgical industries. The characterization of clay in order to understand its mineralogical constituents, chemical and physical properties is of significant importance. In this paper, the significant of clay as raw material used by the metallurgical industries for the production of refractory materials were reviewed. Emphasis on the estimate of Nigerian clay deposit, and its suitability for use in the metallurgical industries as refractory materials were highlighted. Several research work exploring the potentials of Nigerian clay deposits conducted by different researches were summarized.

Keywords: Clay, mineralogy, refractory materials


Clay is a natural material formed by the progressive deterioration of rocks in silicate layers containing low carbon acid and other diluted solvents with a particle size of less than 2 µm, which are plastic with a content of suitable water, which shrinks on drying, expands on wetting and hardens when fired (Edozuino et al.2016; Ochieng 2016; and George, 2011). Clay is composed of minerals with small particles and a complex porous structure with a high specific surface which allows a strong physical and chemical interaction with the dissolved species (Faheem, 2018; Murali et al, 2018; and Muhammad, 2017). These clay constituents have made them useful in various metallurgical applications (Oziegbe et al., 2019; Katsina et al., 2013; and Umbugadu et al., 2019) such as refractory materials, binders in the metallurgical industries (Sani et al., 2013). Clay particle size varies according to different field of studies (Guggenheim et al., 1995; and Moore et al., 1997). For this reason, Ordinary microscope is insufficient to provide an in depth knowledge of the crystal structure of clay. X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, energy-dispersive X-ray analysis, differential thermal analysis, infrared spectroscopy and electron microscopy are best employed to study the crystal structure of clay (Obaje et al., 2013; and Yusuf et al., 2018). Clay is classified according to its structure, chemical composition, origin and nature of occurrence. The difference between the types of clay is explained by the octahedral and tetrahedral arrangements of clay structure (Oziegbe et al., 2019). In general, clay comes in three main forms with similar chemical

compositions and different physical properties. This includes surface clays, shale clays and refractory clays (Okpanachi et al., 2017). The major clay mineral groups include kaolinites, vermiculites, palygorskite, mica, smectites, chlorites and other weathered minerals. The mixture of different clays in various proportion results in the formation of clay deposits with one group or type normally being dominant (Sani et al. 2013). For this reason, Oziegbe et al. (2019) characterized Origo and Awo clay deposited in the Southwestern part of Nigeria based on their mineralogical contents and chemical composition. The result obtained from the analysis proved kaolin as the dominant clay mineral while smectite occurs in small amount which makes the clay suitable for refractory composite. Base on the nature of application, clay can be blended to achieve the required properties (Titiladunayo et al., 2011). Hence a comparative study on refractory properties of Dolomite using clay as additives was conducted by Oyetunji et. al., (2018), the result obtained from the study was compared with imported fireclay bricks and ASTM standards for refractory grade dolomite and found the mixture to be suitable for melting metals at a temperature not exceeding 1100oC.


Each region of Nigeria is said to have a large deposit of clays (Richard et al., 2017). Research conducted by Raw Materials Research and Development Council of Nigeria (RMRDC), Nigeria is reported to have billions of tones of clay deposits that spread throughout entire states (Muhammadu, 2013). An insight research conducted by Richard et al., (2017) showed that Nigeria has an estimated reserve of bentonite clay of about 700 million metric tons. Afuze town of Edo state in Nigeria is reported to contain 70-80 million metric tons of bentonite clay. Moreover, Bauchi and Taraba state in the north eastern state of Nigeria has an estimated reserve of barites clay holding up to 7.5 million metric tons of barite clay. Additionally, 4billions reserves of clay were found to be deposited in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The north eastern region of Nigeria is reached with about 700 million metric tons of clay deposited that is yet to be characterized. The table below gives an estimated quantity of some of the clay minerals found in some part of Nigeria.

Table 1: loc

ation of some clay minerals in N

igeria with their estimate

d quantity


Clay mineral

Site location


Estimated Reserve (tones)




Major potter, Jos Darazu


Katsina Plateau Bauchi Anambra

20, 000, 000

19, 000, 000

10, 000, 000

769, 000


Common clay



5,500, 000


Quartz/ silica

Lokoja Biu


Kogi Borno Plateau

4, 000, 000

2, 540, 000

27, 962





40, 000, 000



Okpila Jakuru Igumala Mfamoging Ewekoro Aruchukwu

Edo Kogi Benue

Cross river Ogun


10, 161, 000

68, 000, 000

30, 161, 000

26, 000, 000

7.1billion 101, 000, 000



Osara Itobe Burum Kwakuti

Kogi Benue Abuja Niger

2, 000, 000

1, 000, 000

8, 000, 000

2, 540, 000

Source: Adelabu (2012)


With the emergence of new trends in technology in Nigeria such as development of iron and steel industries and other related industries that uses refractory materials, clay have found several applications in various sectors of Nigerian metallurgical industries. One of the most important uses of clay is its application in the production of refractory materials. These materials are employed in metallurgical industries for furnace constructions, productions of moulds for castings purposes, and smelting vessels (Oke et al., 2015). Refractory materials are composed of high melting oxides such as SiO2, Al2O3, MgO, Cr2O3, ZrO (Ibrahim et al., 2018). Their outstanding properties which include the ability to resist heat at elevated temperature make them suitable for use in metallurgical industries (Muhammadu, 2013). Furnace linings, kilns, reactors and crucibles are examples of products produced from such material (Mokwa et al., 2019).

Furthermore, refractory materials can be classified into groups depending on the desired temperature, chemical compositions and shape of the refractory material. Titiladunayo, (2011) reported that refractory materials can either be acidic such as silica (SiO2) and zirconia (ZrO2); basic such as magnesia (MgO) and chromites (Cr2O3); or Neutral refractories such as carbon graphite and alumina.

Ibrahim et al., (2018) stated that refractory materials can be classified according to temperature ranges at which they are used. This include low temperature range refractory materials that can perform below 1770oC; medium temperature refractory materials which can be used in between 1770-2000oC range and high temperature refractory materials that can perform above 2000oC. Oyetunji et al., (2018), stated that the composition of each refractory material possesses a desirable heating condition to be considered to prevent failure during a specified operation. Therefore, to ensure durability in the usage of refractory material, proper selection of such material should be considered. For instance, zirconia, silicon carbide and graphite are employed in a severe temperature condition (Amkpa et al., 2016; Folorunso, 2015). Physical properties such as refractoriness, thermal strength, crushing strength and color play an important role in determining the industrial and commercial value of any refractory material and are used in quality control during the production processes. These properties differ according to the chemical composition, and structure of the clay (Abdelaziz et. al., 2019; Paul et al., 2011 & Ibetoye et al., 2014). Table 2 below outlined some of the important physical and thermal properties of refractory materials with their standards.

Table 2: Physical and Thermal Properties of Refractory Clay Based on International Standard



Linear shrinkage (%)


Permeability to air


Apparent porosity (%)


Bulk density (g/cm3)

1.71- 2.8

Cold crushing strength (Mpa)

15.0 minimum

Thermal shock resistance, cycle


Refractoriness ( oC)


Moisture content (%)


Source: Ugwouke et al., (2018)

Despite the plenitude amount of clay deposits available in Nigeria and the various research that have been carried out in the development of refractory products, Nigeria continues to rely on imported refractory materials for its industrial applications (Oke et al., 2015). Investigations of clay deposited in any region provide the general information required in the field of metallurgy (Omowunmi, 2000). Hence, tremendous works were conducted by several researchers on clays deposited in different part of Nigeria ensuring that it properties compare favorably to standard requirements; most of the results obtained showed that the clay deposits possessed the required physical, mechanical and chemical properties to be used by metallurgical industries. For instance, an investigation into the refractory properties of Jalingo clay in Taraba state of Nigeria was conducted by Adamu et. al., (2018), the result showed that the clays possessed a temperature of 1300oC which qualifies the clay for use in melting of nonferrous materials. The performance assessment of the physical properties of Kadna, Tagwai, and Gbakoita town clay deposits as refractory for furnace lining in Niger state of Nigeria was conducted by Okpanachi et. al., (2017), the result obtained was compared to standards. The clays indicated a refractoriness temperature of 1600oC, with a bulk density of 2.7g/cm3, apparent porosity of 29.6%, linear shrinkage of 9.21%, thermal shock resistance of 17cycle, and cold crushing strength of 310.7kg/cm2. The parameters obtained qualify the clays for use as a good fireclay refractory and furnace lining application. Assessments of the industrial potentials of some Nigerian Kaolinitic clay deposits conducted by Ovat et. al., 2017 showed that the physical and chemical properties of the clays assessed were in agreement with standards. The evaluation of the chemical and mechanical properties of some Nigerian clay sample for foundry applications was carried out by Yusuf et al., (2018) and discovered that the Nigerian clays could suitably replace imported clays. Additionally, the investigation of some selected kaolin clay deposits in Nigeria for furnace lining applications was conducted by Mokwa et al., (2019). Moreover, a tremendous work that studies the chemical and physical characteristics of clay samples in sokoto state of Nigeria proved the clay satisfactory for used as furnace lining (Sani et al. 2013). Clays deposited in Niger state, Agbaja town in kogi state, Afuze clay in south-south of Nigeria were investigated and found to be suitable for the production of fireclays bricks for furnace lining (Abdullahi et al., 2012; and Elakhame et al., 2016). Also, the evaluation and characterization of Gakem and Abouchiche clay samples in Bekwarra L.G.A of Cross River state by Ovat et al., (2017), showed that the clays exhibited the required properties for production of refractory materials. Firing temperature algorithm on the physiochemical properties of Ishiagu clay deposit for refractory application was investigated by Chidinma et al., (2017), the result obtained proved the clay satisfactory for the production of refractory materials.

However, reference to the research works conducted by several individuals, some of the result showed that not all

the clay deposits available in Nigeria possess the required properties for metallurgical activities. In order to utilize these locally sourced clays in the production of refractory materials, the physical, thermal and chemical properties have to be improved. This can be achieved by either blending two or more different clay obtained from different source or treating the clay with certain additives. Richard et al., (2017) stated that the additives can either be locally sourced from Nigeria or conventional additives. For instance, Ogunsemi et al., (2017) investigated the effect of certain additives on some selected refractory properties of ant-hill clay for furnace lining application. In his work, pulverized glass wastes, bentonites, clean water and 100% ant hill clay were mixed at an appropriate proportion. The result obtained reveals an improvement in the properties of the anti-hill clay to suit the desired requirement needed for the production of refractory materials. Furthermore, an evaluation of the chemical and thermo-physical properties of locally aggregated kaolin-based refractory materials was conducted by Olare et al., (2019), in this work, the chemical composition of clay sample from Ipinsa town in Ondo state of Nigeria, termite hill material and processed bentonite were mixed at an aggregate proportion. From the result obtained, the refractoriness of the clay was found to be 1900oC which qualifies the clay satisfactory in the production of refractory materials.


The following can be drawn from the above reviewed:

  1. Local clays deposits in different part of Nigeria can serve as a good replacement for imported clays for used in metallurgical and other related areas. This can be achieved by establishing proper scientific records of the clays and comparing them with standards.

  2. Refractory clays constitutes certain properties which include moisture content, bulk density, thermal resistance, refractoriness, loss on ignition, plasticity, modulus of rapture and linear shrinkage. These properties have significant effects on performance and durability of the material in metallurgical applications. However, it is very difficult for refractory clays collected from a single site to possess the satisfactory properties required for metallurgical applications. Hence, proper blending of the selected clays with good additives to improve their physical, chemical and thermal properties is important.

  3. The mineralogical and chemical compositions of refractory clays are best examined and evaluated using the following method: X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction, energy-dispersive X-ray analysis, electron diffraction, differential thermal analysis, infrared spectroscopy and electron microscopy.


On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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