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Major new CAT facility at FJ Church

FJ Church CAT recycling
The new plant, which we believe is the biggest in the UK prepares material ready for final conversion by their Korean partner.
Not many scrap merchants have been around longer than Rainham based, F J Church but with the recent installation of what we believe is the largest catalytic convertor recycling facility in the UK, it’s obvious that their focus is very much on the future.

Firstly, it’s worth understanding what the process of turning an old cat into a new cat is so that we can fully appreciate the implications of this investment from the dismantlers’ standpoint.

Once you have removed your cat, then the high value powders (containing palladium, platinum and Rhodium) need to be removed. This process is known as de-canning and we have covered in previous issues companies such as JMC who supply the equipment to do this and visited companies like JWB who will collect your cats and then perform this task. What F J Church are doing is the next stage of the recycling process. Naturally, they buy cats and carry out de-canning, collecting nationwide and throughout Northern Europe. Currently the de-canning operation is performed using a twin station JMC machine with future expansion planned in this area as the business develops.

The purpose of the new sampling machine is to evaluate the precious metals content derived from multi valued product. This is achieved by first milling followed by extensive blending which results in a homogeneous powder which is then suitable for sampling. Once the lot has been sampled it is possible to carry out an XRF assay (X-ray Fluorescence Analysis) giving a quick indication of the content with the final prepared sample being sent away for ICP assay. This homogeneous mix is what Church’s send to their refining partner based in Korea.

The Korean partner, HeeSung PMTech for whom Church’s have worked very closely with and are their premier European supplier are a major player in the refining business. HeeSung PMTech refines the palladium, platinum and rhodium to a purity in excess of 99.95% from the material supplied by Church’s. Plasma furnaces are used for this process and HeeSung recently completed the installation of their third furnace.

Once processed, the refined metals are then returned to the catalyst manufacturers who supply either the motor industry (Hyundai in HeeSung’s case) or for industrial applications.

So that’s the process. The need for Church’s investment in this sampling plant is driven by both HeeSung’s and Church’s desire to increase volumes through competitive terms which they believe will directly benefit suppliers on their PGM returns.

Church’s Director, Derek Swaby said, “We have worked very closely with the refiner as it essential to supply the material to an assured quality. This is not possible with a hand held XRF device for analysis and equally the material is not suitable without milling and blending to create a homogeneous mixture.”

The new plant performs this function, both milling the material to a fine powder and mixing it to ensure a uniform consistency. The plant will perform this on loads of half tonne upwards.

As with all processes, they are never quite as straight forward as they initially appear and removing wadding and other deleterious material is still a manual job at the start of this process. Speaking to Brian Kavannagh, the man responsible for the quality of the product brings this home, loud and clear. He explained, “This is all about quality and we constantly look at ways to remove any impurities prior to them arriving at the processing point. For example, when we de-can cats in-house we are vigilant to remove wadding and other materials at this point. We would like in the future to be confident that the material is clean when it arrives at the sampling machine but until we have the systems and technologies to achieve this we must perform this function manually.”

The processing is only half the picture. Analysis is the key to ensuring the product is up to standard. Church’s also believe that more accurate analysis is an added benefit for the dismantler. Derek said, “The better the analysis the more accurately the value can be reached. Without this level of accuracy the buyer is always going to have to hedge on the side of caution, restricting his ability to offer you the full price for the product.”

Church’s are sure that with their system you will get the full value but accurate analysis isn’t instant so you may only get 80% of the estimated value initially with the remainder to follow. This shouldn’t be a problem in these days of cashless trading and they do offer a full toll service to those who wish to carry out the de-canning themselves. This gives you the option also to decide when you want to sell your material which can be beneficial if you reckon the price is going to rise!

So how do they check their quality? Well, the final analysis is carried out in Korea using a system known as Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometry or ICP which is the ultimate (and very expensive) system but back at Church’s they have a state of the art XRF unit and a sampling methodology which takes 6 samples per batch to check the uniformity of the finished blend. The samples are pelletised under pressure to create a plug for the sampler to analyse. This analysis takes in the region of half a day once the material has been milled and mixed. Brian explained, “we take analysis and sampling extremely seriously but we have to wait for the ICP results to confirm our figures.”

F J Church will naturally be looking for a lot of feed for this plant and we were interested in what the deal was. Derek told us that they have a minimum delivery /collection of 500 cats and if you de-can yourself, then the minimum quantity is half a tonne of powder. If you would like to find out more then you can call them on 01708 522651 or email Dafydd
. Alternatively, they are exhibiting at CARS so why not go along and have a a chat.

June 2014

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