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Dec-2019

Sabin Metal Corp. announces capacity expansion project (ERTC)

Sabin Metal Corporation, is the largest privately owned precious metals refining organisation in North America and will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2020.

Brad Cook
Sabin Metal Corporation
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Article Summary
Sabin’s state-of-the-art processing and refining operations take place in New York, North Dakota, USA and Ontario, Canada, and sales and service offices are located around the globe.

Sabin specialises in the recovery of platinum group metals from process catalysts for the petroleum, petrochemical and chemical industries. As many readers know, most petroleum and petrochemical processors use some sort of catalyst containing precious metals (platinum, palladium, ruthenium, and rhodium; commonly referred to as platinum group metals or PGMs). Some of these PGM catalysts also contain another valuable precious metal, rhenium (Re); typically this is used in combination with platinum for reforming naphthas. Regardless of their precious metals composition, all PGM and rhenium bearing catalysts must eventually be replaced with fresh catalysts (or ‘changed out’) to restore efficacy to the process or speed up process reactions. The spent catalysts are then sent to a precious metals refiner to recover the value contained.

Together with Sabin International Logistics Corporation, bringing years of transportation experience, Sabin is your ‘one-stop’ precious metals expert: full financial services and metals management, pre-reclaim kilning and some of the most sophisticated facilities in the world for safely and responsibly processing, sampling and refining precious metal-bearing catalysts.

Pre-Treatment Expansion
A critical step in PGM recovery/refining is the removal of process contaminants from spent catalyst materials prior to sampling. The most cost-effective way to remove contaminants such as carbon, water and solvents is to ‘pre-burn’ the spent catalysts in an indirectly fired rotary kiln. This is done to achieve a more free-flowing and uniform material, which is essential for accurate sampling.

Sabin Metal West Corporation in Williston, North Dakota, USA has recently begun the installation of an additional rotary kiln, which will increase overall capacity by 50%. Most refiners pre-burn spent catalysts in this way, but many do not have the in-house capability to do so and must trans-ship spent catalysts to a third party for kilning services. This adds costs and frequently great delays, both of which translate into high expense for the catalyst owner, especially if an extension of lease of precious metals is required.

Accurate sampling and analysis
With clients seeking deeper and deeper discounts, many vendors are doing everything they can to reduce costs of labour, raw materials, and so on. Taken too far, these shortcuts will reduce the quality of the service, which in precious metals business means improper sampling and improper analysis.

At Sabin, we believe that random sampling is an inefficient and incorrect method for the high value of your precious metals catalyst asset. One hundred percent of the customer shipment must be sampled to ensure that the samples are truly representative of the customer materials.
To compliment Sabin’s ‘best in class’ sampling services we also operate a state-of-the-art analytical laboratory to ensure fast, accurate results on the precious metal content of your material. The lab incorporates highly experienced staff, time-tested methodology, carefully calibrated instrumentation, and maintains a rigorous quality programme.

Lastly, it is always highly recommended that the customer audit the precious metals refiner, and also attend the PGM catalyst weighing and sampling process or hire a reputable third party to witness it on their behalf. A second pair of eyes and ears on-site helps to eliminate the human error factor, and provides valuable corroboration of the calibration of machinery, data gathered, and that all processing and sampling proceeded precisely as intended.

Unique Metals Recovery Methodology
Traditionally, precious metals catalyst refiners recover PGMs and rhenium by dissolving the spent catalysts in strong caustics or acids. This hydrometallurgical recovery process is commonly referred to in the industry as ‘digesting’.

With the exception of aluminosilicates (or zeolites), digestion serves well to recover the precious metals from spent process catalysts in most cases. Certain events and circumstances encountered over the life of the catalyst, however, can create many problems when trying to digest:
•    Overheating during operation can harden substrates (gamma alumina converting to theta or alpha alumina), rendering them insoluble to even powerful solvents.
•    Excessive fines or carbon content can prevent the exposure of the catalyst surface area to the solvents.
•    Metals present in the feed, or additives introduced to extend catalyst life, can create chemical imbalances and interfere with the desired digestive reaction.

Individually, each of these factors can reduce precious metals recovery, and in combination these effects can be great. In some extreme cases, as much as 20% or 30% of the rhenium contained can remain insoluble.

Should the insoluble materials still hold precious metals, the hydrometallurgical refiners must send them out to a copper smelter to recover the PGMs, but the rhenium is lost.

A refiner that uses pyrometallurgical technology (for example, Sabin’s Pyro-Re™ process) can recover virtually all of the Re from spent catalyst lots, maximising the return value because you, the catalyst owner, are paid based on the total precious metals content.

Wise customers will watch the precious metals refinery contract language very carefully: terms regarding the values being returned should be based on total precious metals contained and not only on acid-soluble precious metals content. Settlement on acid-soluble values is almost always the equivalent of losing some of your precious metals asset.

In summary, due diligence in precious metals management takes the form of investigation first, vigilance during the process, and attention to detail throughout. Don’t be fooled by the lowest bidder mentality and you will maximise your company’s precious metals returns. That is always where the real money will reside.

This short article originally appeared in the 2019 ERTC Newspaper, produced by PTQ / DigitalRefining.

You can view the digital issue here - http://www.eptq.com/digitalPTQ/2019-ertc/html5/index.html?&locale=ENG
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