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New platinum group metals recycling facility opens in China

The new BASF HERAEUS Metal Resource recycling facility in China.

Those at the opening BASF HERAEUS Metal Resource.

19th January 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – A new platinum group metals (PGM) recycling facility has opened in China, where the autocatalyst recycling market is expected to grow at the rate of 18% a year.

Recycled PGMs are calculated to offer carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction of up to 98% when compared with mined PGMs.

The largely Southern Africa-mined PGM suite of metals embraces platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium, and osmium, with metals used as catalysts in applications including exhaust gas purification, green hydrogen generation, fertiliser production, jewellery, and in cancer therapy medicines.

The new BASF HERAEUS Metal Resource recycling facility in Pinghu, China, has been jointly built by BASF Environmental Catalyst & Metal Solutions and Heraeus Precious Metals.

The joint venture (JV) investment is part of a global €300-million recycling expansion programme spanning China, the US and Germany, Heraeus Precious Metals senior VP business line chemicals Marius Vigener stated in a media release to Mining Weekly.

“It will support our customers by meeting their increasing demand for low-carbon footprint products. This commitment to sustainable development benefits not only both companies but also the wider PGM and downstream industries,” Vigener noted.

Construction of the facility, which has a capacity to recycle 10 000 t of autocatalysts a year, was completed in 16 months on an area of 32 000 m2 in Pinghu. Also in China, a PGMs plant in Nanjing was opened by Heraeus in 2018.

In Germany, Heraeus is expanding its PGMs recycling capacity in Hanau, as well as providing additional recycling capacity development in Wartburg, Tennessee, and Santa Fe Springs, California, both in the US.

In Hanau, several additional production lines are expected to increase recycling capacities substantially by 2026. The new lines will use electrolytic processes that reduce the use of chemicals and increase process efficiency.

In Pinghu, the JV will use BASF Environmental Catalyst & Metal Solutions pyrometallurgy recycling technology, providing customers with state-of-the-art technology for the recovery of precious metals.

BASF Environmental Catalyst & Metal Solutions senior VP precious metal services & recycling Tim Ingle described China as an important market and said BASF HERAEUS Metal Resource would facilitate the reuse of PGMs in China while supporting circularity and enabling customers to reduce their CO2 footprints.

“We extend our deepest gratitude to the joint project team, our partners in the construction company, and local authorities. It is the commitment of all those involved that ensured the project's rapid and successful completion ahead of schedule,” said BASF HERAEUS Metal Resource GM Nancy (Ying) Ren, who highlighted the recycling operation as being pivotal for the broader context of China's industrial and environmental roadmap.

PGMS AND HYDROGEN

As reported by Mining Weekly last week, the hydrogen economy is an important new growth area for PGMs and, in turn, PGMs are pivotal for hydrogen production and application across a broad front.

In the article, Heraeus Precious Metals new business development executive VP Dr Philipp Walter highlighted the strong global current momentum of the hydrogen economy – “politically, socially and technologically”.

In South Africa, it is estimated that the hydrogen economy has the potential to add 3.6% to gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, along with 370 000 jobs.

South Africa is already acting with purpose to harness the potential of green hydrogen and if investment is significantly scaled up, green hydrogen can deliver the equivalent of more than one-third of Africa’s current energy consumption, increase the collective GDP, improve clean energy supply and empower communities.

The Southern African region already has 33 green hydrogen-linked projects charted, 26 of them in eight provinces in South Africa and seven in Namibia. This region has world-class conditions for generating renewable energy through solar and wind power, which are key drivers of the production of green hydrogen.

Innovative financing structures, sourced from multiple stakeholders, are available for green hydrogen projects that can collectively provide energy sovereignty and export opportunities.

To date, the largest public finance commitment to South Africa’s green hydrogen sector is the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). Conceived as an $8.5-billion multi-donor agreement, JETP is a novel climate finance programme to deliver a just transition to affected groups.

Further, through its green ammonia export project in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, the leadership of Hive Hydrogen South Africa intends to show how a just energy transition is possible, Hive Hydrogen chairperson Thulani Gcabashe highlighted at last month’s signing ceremony of the $5.8-billion Coega green hydrogen and green ammonia development.

Hive Hydrogen South Africa and Itochu Corporation of Japan have signed a memorandum of cooperation to advance Hive’s Coega green ammonia export project and have agreed to work together on matters of viable green hydrogen and ammonia project development, production, operation, marketing, offtake and distribution.

Initially, the renewable energy capacity for the development will be around 3.6 GW of solar photovoltaic and onshore wind generation, with further sites identified totalling more than 12 GW for additional phases of the project.

Once the project is operational, which is planned for 2028, the export from Coega of green ammonia, green hydrogen, and potentially also ammonium nitrate, is expected.

The purpose of the memorandum of cooperation, signed at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Gqeberha, is to clearly identify the important areas for Hive and Itochu to engage on, thereby enabling them each to achieve their respective green hydrogen and ammonia business objectives in a strategic, structured, assured and cost-effective manner.

This provides a framework to develop a least-cost green ammonia solution that includes, among other things, Itochu’s potential involvement as a strategic equity investor and offtaker in relation to the project.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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