Iranian Researchers Extract Platinum from Waste

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Iranian researchers at Research Institute of Petroleum Industry (RIPI) have achieved technical know-how for extracting platinum and rhenium from waste material. Recycling precious metals from waste is an important process because many catalysts containing those meals are used in oil industry, and since Iran lacked the technical know-how to extract them, they were imported. The achievement is also important because purity of extracted precious metals matches those produced by the most creditable recycling companies. If the plan became operational on industrial scale, the country would take a stride toward self-sufficiency in oil industry. Dr. Mehdi Rashidzadeh, head of catalyst research center of Research Institute of Petroleum Industry, has headed the research team.

The process, which is known as catalyst reforming, is a well-known process which is used in oil refining industry to improve quality of octane number of gasoline, produce aromatic products for petrochemical industry, and also to produce hydrogen as a byproduct. W. C. Heraeus Company is one of the most creditable companies in the field of recycling precious metals from catalysts and other waste material, which has been recycling those metals including gold, silver, platinum, palladium, rhenium, ruthenium, and rhodium at two centers in Germany and California, the United States.

Recycling platinum and rhenium through catalyst reforming process at catalyst research center of Research Institute of Petroleum Industry has been carried out with a purity of over 99 percent and matches the quality standards of the most creditable companies in the field. Of course, the cost of recycling every kilogram of catalyst is lower compared to other countries. In addition, the method would pave the way for the annual sales of sodium aluminate as byproduct, which is a byproduct of the Iranian method.

The plan has been funded in part by Trade Department of National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company.

When catalysts containing precious metals go through their useful lifespan, they are discharged from refinery reactor. Due to high price of platinum in the world, recycling the metal from waste catalysts is economically necessary. Since recycling process has not reached industrial level in Iran, each year, a large amount of such catalysts are sent to other countries to be recycled, which adds up to about 100 tons per year. Therefore, if the plan is implemented on an industrial scale, it would be a long stride toward economic saving and self-sufficiency.

Work on the project started at catalyst research center of Research Institute of Petroleum Industry in 1996. After completion of laboratory and semi-industrial projects, recycling platinum and rhenium from waste catalyst through catalyst reforming was started at 400 kg per day. At present, RIPI is ready deliver a package containing conceptual design of rhenium and platinum recycling through catalyst reforming at 400 kg/d along with economic and technical evaluation of the recycling process and instructions on how to calculate value of platinum and rhenium in the waste catalyst to domestic and foreign recycling companies.

In recycling platinum and rhenium metals from waste catalyst, first rhenium is separated from catalyst through chemical operations. Then platinum is separated through one phase of chemical dissolution. In the next stage, impurities are removed from platinum and rhenium solutions using ion exchange method and rhenium salt is produced from pure solution. Spongiform platinum is then produced using electrolysis method before being converted to pure platinum bullions in electrical furnaces.

In this method, a reactor under pressure at laboratory, a semi-industrial reactor, furnaces, ovens, as well as ion exchange columns are used along with electrolysis system.

Since the recycled platinum and rhenium can be reused to produce catalyst, they can be exported for use in producing catalyst or other processes.

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