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Catalysts Q&A: Brad Cook, Sabin Metal Corp.

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The May 2021 issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering includes a Q&A with a number of experts in the catalysts and precious metals market. In this sneak preview, we talk to Brad Cook, Vice President – Sales and Marketing at Sabin Metal Corp., regarding the latest in the precious metals market.

Q: To what extent has the downstream catalyst/precious metals market changed over the past five years?

A: The biggest changes to the platinum group metals (PGM) market over the last five years have been price volatility, elevated interest rates for leasing PGM and the overall availability of high-purity forms of these metals. Over 85% of all palladium above ground on earth is in automotive catalytic convertors, along with a substantial amount of platinum and rhodium. Sabin is not involved in the recycling of autocat, but we do share a common problem with that industry: a growing amount of ‘contamination’ in the catalyst feed arriving for recycling. In the autocat recycling industry, the introduction of tungsten (W) and silicon carbide (SiC) into the convertors to achieve higher emission control standards many years ago has resulted in processing challenges for the recyclers now that those older cars and convertors are being scrapped. In the petroleum and petrochemical industry, the problem is carbon (C) and coke. In past years, the catalyst user performed a ‘pre-reclaim burn’ in situ to reduce carbon contained, but many clients now leave the carbon mitigation to the precious metals recyclers. These two issues (increasing SiC and W in automotive catalysts, and increasing C in alumina-based petroleum/petrochemical catalysts) have combined to create huge recycling backlogs, higher treatment costs, and bottlenecks in the both the availability of palladium and recovery streams of PGM overall.

Q: What has been your company’s biggest recent achievement or innovation in terms of catalytic solutions?

A: Sabin has been working very hard for the last several years on two capacity issues. Firstly, the addition of a third kiln unit for the thermal reduction process that reduces carbon/coke contamination, which is now complete, certified and in use. Secondly, our overall refinery expansion, which will allow Sabin to make more pure platinum and palladium faster than ever before. We expect to announce the increased refining capability later this year.

Q: What does the future hold for the catalyst/precious metals market?

I am very bullish on PGM. PGM comes from South Africa and Russia almost exclusively, the ore quality is deteriorating, it is getting more expensive to pull each ounce out of the ground, and demand isn’t going down. The metals we call ‘precious’ were originally given that title based on their beauty and workability as jewellery. This made these metals highly sought after, which in turn made them valuable. They’re still considered very valuable for these same reasons, but today there are much greater reasons to be mindful of PGM:

  • Conservation (pollution control, wise management of natural resources): the automotive catalysts and the industrial filtration units that reduce emissions.
  • Energy (both creating energy and improving performance): fuel cells, gasoline, jet fuels, even your spark plugs are platinum-tipped.
  • World health (disease prevention and cure): treatments, medical devices and pharmaceutical products that contain PGM or are made using PGM.

PGMs remain at the forefront, the absolute cutting edge, of all three of these crucial technologies. Sabin, along with our competitors, customers and partners around the world, need to continue to work together to develop strategies to overcome the issues I’ve mentioned here. A cooperative effort is the only way to ensure that these crucial metals remain sustainable, available, and cost-effective for continued use into the world of our grandchildren and beyond.

To read the full Catalysts Q&A, download a copy of the May issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering here.

Brad Cook is the Vice President – Sales and Marketing at Sabin Metal Corp. Brad joined Sabin Metal Corp. in late 2012 and was named Vice President of Sales and Marketing in January 2015. He has over 35 years’ experience in the precious metals industry. Brad has been a member of the International Precious Metals Institute since 1999, has served on its Board since 2007, and was the President of the Institute for the 2012 – 2013 term. He has written numerous articles for industry publications and delivers presentations on precious metals around the world. For more information, click here

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