In China, Johnson Matthey (JM) has started recycling fuel cells.
The plant, which is situated in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu Province, refines and recycles the platinum group metal content from membrane electrode assemblies (MEA), a significant element of an automotive fuel cell, from Unilia, one of the world’s top suppliers of fuel cell stack technology. MEAs are a key component of fuel cells used in automobiles.
Although the initial amount of materials for refining will be minimal, JM has the capacity and flexibility to expand its facilities to satisfy the demand anticipated over the following years.
Given that natural resources are few and China is the largest PGM market in terms of demand, recycled precious metals will be essential to overcoming this obstacle. Approximately 80% of the platinum group metals used by JM are typically supplied internally, ensuring a reliable metal supply for JM as a major player in the automotive catalyst and fuel cell industries worldwide.
PGM secondary supply is anticipated to increase by around 3-5% annually on a worldwide scale. Compared to primary supply PGMs, recycled metals are less expensive and have a substantially smaller carbon footprint (up to 98% lower). Additionally, they offer supply security for these limited commodities, which is increasingly important as the world’s supply chains are disrupted.