Swindon innovation fires up world-beating precious metal recovery plant

March 11, 2014

Tetronics International, the innovative Swindon-based developer of technology used in recycling and hazardous waste treatment, has strengthened its position in the global market by supplying a major new precious metals recovery plant in Taiwan.

The firm, which has its UK base on the South Marston Industrial Estate, has completed work on the plasma recovery plant for precious material refiner and product processor Solar Applied Materials Technology.

The plant is capable of extracting more than 98% of platinum group metals (PGMs) from the spent catalysts sent there for recycling. Tetronics’ plasma arc technology will also be used to recover precious metals such as gold and silver, as well as PGMs from electronic waste. 

The plant is expected to process up to 1850 tonnes a year of spent catalysts, producing 120,000 troy oz (3732kg) of PGM-based on typical automotive catalysts profiles – equivalent to 6% of the global supply of recovered platinum.

Catalyst wastes, including both auto catalytic converters and industrial catalysts, contain PGMs that are valuable due to their low natural abundance, unique properties and the complex processes that are required for their extraction and refining from primary sources.

The opening brings Tetronics’ plasma technology global installed base to 86 including resource recovery and hazardous waste treatment.

The main advantages of Tetronics’ patented plasma technology are that it couples the highest technical recovery rates and operational flexibility, with the lowest environmental impacts and cost base. The process chemistry in the technology is designed to smelt and preferentially separate the PMs from less valuable material, which is vitrified into an inert, safe usable product called Plasmarok, in a single processing step. The process will also destroy any hazardous organics contained within the material.

Tetronics International CEO Graeme Rumbol said: “We are delighted to have reached this milestone with Solar and to see them experiencing the rewards of their investment. We look forward to expanding our partnership with Solar over the coming years and supporting them as they roll out their plans for rapid growth.”

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