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Industry News, Processing Knowledge

Catalytic Converter Compositions – Clearing the Air

Catalytic converter processor PMR Inc., with locations in Nevada and Quebec, has been in the catalytic converter scrap business since 1996. In the two decades since, the company has grown from a specialized buyer of converter cores to one of the leading converter information providers and toll-refining purchasers in North America.

“Over the past 20 years, we have expanded operations from the ground up to include three processing facilities located across North America with a reputation built on pioneering technology, as well as innovating supplier tools,” says Chrysten Newton, PMR’s Marketing Director.

She adds that the company is focused on delivering satisfaction and transparency to its customers and developing long-term business partnerships with its converter suppliers. 

Newton and Cliff Hope, senior account manager at PMR, share how catalytic converter compositions have changed over the years and its effects on the processing of precious group metals (PGMs).

How Has Catalytic Converter Precious Metal Content Changed Through the Years?

Auto manufacturers load converters with different concentrations of platinum, palladium, and rhodium based on the environmental requirements of the jurisdiction where the car will be sold. Despite this, the precious metal that has always been used in the highest concentration is platinum. 

Now, with newer automobile converters becoming smaller with higher precious metal content, combined with rising platinum prices, a new player has entered the game.

Keeping an Eye on Palladium

For the past 20 years, carmakers have increasingly loaded converters with more palladium because of its lower cost.

Many suppliers fall prey today to the misconception that platinum is still the only price to consider when selling converters, not knowing that there has been a switch to palladium. In the current market, palladium represents more than 60% of the metal content in any given converter, and typically more than three times the amount of platinum.

Improving Fuel Efficiency and Reducing Vehicle Emissions Will Affect Catalytic Converter Precious Metal Content

Automakers are currently looking into new ways to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency, including using lighter materials (to reduce fuel usage), battery-powered systems (the start and stop button), and smaller engines that burn less gas. 

Generally, though, carmakers don’t share information about PGM content of catalytic converters. As recyclers, we only discover the loadings a few years after production, when the vehicles have been disassembled for processing and converters have been removed for further refining and assay.

Catalytic Converter Precious Metal Loadings are Already Changing

What we can confirm is that assay analyses have shown that newer model vehicles have smaller engines and smaller converters. Their precious metal loadings, though, are much higher in order to comply with stricter emission standards. 

The increase of average metal loadings in converters correlates with changes in legislation and fuel-efficiency standards, so let’s keep an eye on those! For instance, the Euro 6B legislation could increase pressure on automakers to increase PGM content.

How Does the Converter’s Filter Substrate Affect Processing?

The autocat filters found only in newer DPF models don’t affect in-house processing. These filters undergo similar step-by-step handling but they need to be separated prior to smelting.

Processing Issues Associated With the Use of Silicon Carbide Filter Substrates

The first issue with silicon carbide filters found in newer DPF models occurs during the smelting process. These filters require a different smelting atmosphere than OEM converters, without which the separation of precious metals won’t be accurate. As a result, different smelters have developed their own procedures and created specific processes to ensure accuracy. 

Silicon carbide filter substrates represent less than 5% of the overall catalytic converter stream within PMR’s operations.

How Do You Address Issues Related to Silicon Carbide Substrates?

The carbide filter material undergoes independent treatment, where a concentrated balance is produced during processing. Final results are not affected during the separation of precious metals.

How Can Auto Salvage Operations Prepare Converters for Shipment?

When shipping to a processor, you must ensure that they provide you with all the guidelines to safely and securely ship your material. For example, PMR guarantees simple shipping solutions for our suppliers, where we do all the work upon delivery. All that’s required from our suppliers is to send us their stocked and shrink-wrapped Gaylord boxes of converters. Upon receipt, ceramic, foils, and DPFs are separated in-house.

How Do You Value Incoming Shipments?

The only way that the value of converter loads can be accurately determined is through assay. The converters are decanned, the ceramic crushed and commingled, and a sample of the load is taken to the lab for testing. Only an assay can accurately determine catalytic converter precious metal content. 

PMR takes representative samples from individual shipments and analyzes them by XRF (X-ray fluorescence) and ICP (inductive coupled plasma) technology to determine the total value of the load.

What Other Services Do You Offer to Suppliers?

As an all-inclusive processor of auto catalyst services, we assist suppliers with all material types, such as foil, ceramic, DPF, and O2 sensors.

Small Lots

We deliver assay results for volumes starting at 150 units. While most toll refiners require an average weight of 2,000 pounds, PMR is able to offer accurate refined returns starting at 250 pounds of material. Smaller producers can deal direct, and larger producers gain separate assay results for their multiple locations.

Fast Settlement

Final assay results are available within 10 business days for ceramic and 15 for foil with the option of 100% payment upon hedge. PMR was the first catalytic converter processor to develop innovative technology that allowed their suppliers to learn their material’s value at half the standard industry rate.

Photo Grading App

This allows a supplier to send in photos of their converter(s) and get fast pricing results, which they can later add to their converter inventory.

Education & Information

With a database of more than 22,000 converters, PMR offers extensive and up-to-date insights to its suppliers, allowing them to search converters by make, serial number, grade, and country of origin.

PMR Supplier Services Platform (SSP)

Along with the grading and pricing tools offered with the platform, PMR suppliers are able to manage their converter inventory, keep track of present and historical lots as well as settlement invoices, and access historical precious metal market data.

Hedging Flexibility

Hedging precious metal ounces is available 10 days prior to shipment to a PMR facility, and no reductions will be made on current market pricing at time of hedge. PMR allows suppliers to hedge one, two, or all three metals at any time during business hours.

Hedging with PMR

Hedging is an important tool for our suppliers. PMR is not a trader and doesn’t play the market, but we do make that option available to our suppliers. As previously mentioned, PMR provides hedging flexibility for suppliers, which creates more opportunities to hedge at favorable market rates.

Shipping Solutions

PMR’s brokerage partnerships offer our suppliers the most economical shipping solutions and the simplest, most efficient handling. Transport documents are automatically generated so that our suppliers can confidently keep track of their material and keep a record of what was sent to PMR.

The key to staying ahead of the curve in the converter processing industry is partnering with a processor that’s there for you until the last lot. That’s why choosing a processor can be the most important decision for your business. Learn more about the process here

For more industry news and processing knowledge, visit PMR’s Resource Center.

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