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What Can Be Accomplished with Catalytic Converter Data?

Throughout the process of catalytic converter recycling, a lot of data is produced. Various stakeholders then study that data, so being able to make sense of it is a major concern for business owners and managers.  

With data drawn from catalytic converter recycling, the focus has traditionally been on the average per-unit value of catalytic converters. But for those who are serious about data tracking and maximizing their profits from catalytic converter recycling, there’s a lot more information out there. That’s why it’s time to rethink what data can do for you. Below are insights that data from catalytic converter recycling has provided.

Separating by Catalytic Converter Types

The most successful examples in catalytic converter recycling are those recyclers who are able to perform separate assays of the various types of autocatalysts and who have a long history of toll refining. Separating your material for assay means higher profits, and the key is knowing the five different types of catalytic converters.

OEM Ceramic Converters

“Original equipment manufacturer,” or OEM, converters are just what they sound like: converters that were attached during manufacturing. The base material of these particular converters is cordierite ceramic that has been wash-coated with platinum, palladium, and rhodium. OEM ceramic converters make up roughly 95% of all autocatalysts and have the highest precious metal loadings.

OEM Metallic Converters

These converters are also equipped by the manufacturer, but they have a different internal composition. The insides of OEM converters are made up of 409 stainless steel that is also wash-coated with precious metals. They represent the other approximately 5% of converters in the marketplace and must be processed differently than ceramic cordierite units when recycling.

DPF Converters

Diesel particulate filter converters can be split into two categories. High-grade DPFs are worth the effort to recycle because their platinum group metal (PGM) loadings can be recovered quite easily. Recovering the PGMs from low-grade DPFs costs more than the metals are worth. Because of the issues posed by the high silicone carbide content, many smelting facilities charge extra fees for recycling DPF converters.

Aftermarket Converters

Aftermarket converters replace OEM converters when they fail. The PGM loadings of these converters are 90% less than OEMs, but while the loadings of precious metals are one-tenth of OEM converters, they are made from the same cordierite ceramic base.

Bead Converters

These converters were the first on the market and were commonly found in light-duty trucks. While there aren’t that many left to recycle, they are typically processed separately, since the precious metal loadings are closer to aftermarket converters.

Quantity Requirements

Until very recently, most autocatalyst recyclers have had difficulties reaching the volume needed to run separate assays on the different catalytic converter types. Most refiners are set up to process 2,000-8,000 pounds of material. This has forced most recyclers to mix the various types of catalysts. 

Mixing material types used to be accepted, and recyclers would receive their payment regardless. Today, however, it isn’t a profitable way to generate data or provide accurate payment for each material type.

Getting into the Mix

Toll-refining is largely a mystery to many in the catalytic converter recycling industry. One difficult question is how refiners arrive at the contained and recoverable precious metal value of a given lot. However, savvy customers know that the analysis is done by systematically sampling a lot and using both XRF and ICP machines to determine the PGM concentration.

The Importance of Assaying

Both XRF and ICP machines need to have complex formulas to accurately read samples. These formulas have been developed over time to look for very specific elements contained in the five different types of catalyst. This is because the different catalyst types are made of different materials and have different PGM loadings.

Should You Process Combined Materials?

Processing a combination of materials won’t produce accurate assay results and won’t give you the true value of your material. If the substrates are mixed for assay, the laboratory machinery will deliver results based on improper scientific assumptions since there won’t be a precise reading for each material type.

The Answer: No

Let’s look at an example. For material with a mixture composed primarily of OEM ceramic converters, but that has more than 20 percent aftermarket converters and some DPFs, the reading will be tainted because the lab formula will only analyze the regular cordierite ceramic base. There is no way for the machinery to register the DPF and its silicone-carbon base properly. 

Processing combined materials is common  in the industry, but it does benefit businesses selling autocatalyst material. When mixing material types, recyclers get further away from the true value of their catalytic converters.

What are the Benefits of Separating Material?

When performing an assay on converters made of the same material, autocatalyst labs can identify the recoverable PGM content of a given lot with incredible accuracy. The data that is created by these separate material assays gives the automotive recycler a clear picture of the value. This means that they can generate more profit and have better control of their inventory, both when acquiring converters and when selling.

Pay Attention to Your DPFs

In the catalytic converter recycling industry, it’s important to pay particular attention to the materials used to make DPF converters. Since 2006, these converters have been produced with a silicone-carbide additive, also known as SiC. While this addition to the filters makes them run cleaner by trapping the diesel fuel emissions, it has made recycling these converters harder.

Trapped Carbon

If not treated properly, trapped carbon can ignite and cause an explosion in an arc furnace. Smelting facilities handle this problem by treating high carbon content DPF converters differently. This issue has caused some catalyst smelting facilities to increase their fees for processing DPF converters, and in some cases, certain facilities are rejecting loads outright. 

Increase Financial Gain by Separating DPFs

The increase of DPF converters entering the catalytic converter recycling stream makes it more important to separate materials properly. Recyclers who mix small amounts of materials from DPF material into regular autocatalysts might be charged additional fees for high carbon content or have their loads rejected because of the increased carbon levels. Separate DPF converters from your regular autocatalysts right away to save money and time.

Knowing the Ropes

Another challenge for recyclers is having knowledgeable staff on hand to do the sorting, especially if they are cutting converters and dealing directly with a smelter. 

Relying on a processor to separate your material means that you need to be confident in their staff.

The Dangers of Untrained Staff

If lots do not contain the minimum requirement of 2,000 to 8,000 pounds of ceramic weight, many catalyst processors will mix the lots. A common practice is to process aftermarket material along with regular autocatalysts. While the base of the material (ceramic substrate) is the same, the precious metal loading is vastly different. As a result, it’s difficult for an auto recycler to quantify the results.   

With all these challenges, what can you do to get the most accurate and reliable results? The answer is simple. Find a processor who can help you identify and separately assay the five different types of converters.  With more precise data, you can make profitable decisions for your company.

Banking on Smaller Lots

Getting accurate compensation for your converter material is always a good thing. Being able to track results of catalyst material coming from multiple locations is even better. However, the only way to accomplish this, for most companies, is to look for a converter processor that is able to offer assay results on small lots of catalytic converters. 

Working with a company that offers small lot assays allows for faster material returns. Instead of waiting to collect 1,000 or more converters, material can be shipped out much sooner and a company can insulate itself from changes in PGM prices.   

Separating the various categories of converters into smaller lots will produce more accurate data that will keep you one step ahead of your competitors and provide real control over this valuable product.

What is Considered a Small Lot?

Accurate assays are now being done on as few as 100 automotive converters or 200 pounds of ceramic. This is changing the way data can be analyzed and managed. With a lot size of 100 converters, an auto recycler of any size can separate each of the five different converter types, which means better results and improved data tracking.

What is the Competitive Advantage of Separating Materials for Processing?

Separating your converters means accessing the true value of your material. Keeping your material free of any aftermarket or DPF converters will ensure that information in your returns is accurate. 

For example, a load of OEM converters that’s mixed with aftermarket and DPF converter materials might result in an average converter price of $60 USD. In reality, the average OEM converter is worth $80 or more, and the average high-grade DPF can be $150 or more. That’s why separating is crucial.  

See Profit and Loss Clearly

Separating materials and small lot assays makes it much easier to spot data spikes that can be used to track profits and losses. If a company is also purchasing converter units at scale and is not separating the lots between production converters and purchased material, there is an even bigger potential for lost profit.  

In the catalytic converter recycling marketplace today, there is a lot of information available regarding the value of converters. If a company doesn’t have a ready source for that information, it could be at risk for dumping of low-grade material. Partnering with a converter processor that is able to provide instant converter feedback will end this practice and provide the opportunity to make converters a higher profit core.

PMR believes that transparency and knowledge-sharing empowers recyclers to make smart business decisions and capitalize on a high market. Visit PMR’s Resource Center for converter information and industry updates. 

For more questions on small converter lots and assaying, contact us.

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