Johnson Matthey begins fuel cell recycling in China
British chemicals and sustainable technology firm Johnson Matthey (JM) has signed its first fuel cell recycling contract in China.
Located in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province, the plant is refining and recycling the platinum group metal content from membrane electrode assemblies (MEA), a key component of an automotive fuel cell, from Unilia, one of the world's leading providers of fuel cell stack technology.
Whilst the volume of materials for refining will be small to begin with, JM has sufficient capacity and ability to scale up its facilities to meet the demand expected over the coming years, according to the company.
Simon Wang, PGM Services Commercial Lead at Johnson Matthey in China, said, "PGM based fuel cells are critical in decarbonizing transport, particularly for heavy duty vehicles such as trucks and buses, but the cost of PGMs are relatively high. Therefore, it is important we put in place the ability to recycle fuel cells at end of life. We are confident that having in place the capacity and ability to recycle will enable our customers in China to create a circular economy, supplying them with some of the world's scarcest metals, whilst driving long term circularity".
China is the biggest PGM market in terms of demand but with very limited natural resource, so recycled precious metals will be critical to meeting this challenge. On average, around 80 percent of the platinum group metals used by JM are sourced internally, creating a resilient supply of metal for JM as a leading global player in the automotive catalyst and fuel cell sectors.
JM claims that the secondary supply of PGMs is expected to grow globally at roughly 3-5 percent per annum. Recycled metals cost less and have a much lower carbon footprint (up to 98 percent lower) than primary supply PGMs. They also provide security of supply of these scarce resources, which becomes ever more critical with global supply chain disruption, it adds.