What Is Industrial Catalyst? And How Much Can You Profit from Recycling It?

If you work in an industry that uses industrial catalysts, you probably know what they are and what precious metals yours contain.

What you might not know, however, is that the catalysts that have lived out their life in your factory could still contain significant amounts of precious metals like gold, silver and even platinum that are well worth recycling. If you are not sure how much precious metal could be reclaimed by having them recycled by a precious metals refinery. We are here to offer advice and testing on your used industrial catalysts. In just a few minutes on the phone with us, you could discover that you are sitting on precious metals that could be worth a lot of money.

But If You Are New to the World of Industrial Catalysts

Here is information you need to know if you are interested in what industrial catalysts are and how you can make money recycling them.

What Are Catalysts?

If you’ve heard the word “catalyst” before, you know that a catalyst is something that causes a process to begin, or that makes a process happen faster.

And the term is not only used to describe substances that are used in industry. For example, people often say that Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was a catalyst for change, because it directed attention toward widespread problems in American society and got people moving to correct them. Similarly, Tom Paine’s famous booklet “Common Sense,” published in 1776, is seen as a catalyst because it got American colonists to focus on the fact that they were suffering under British rule. That focus, history shows, got Americans moving too. 

But what do those examples of catalysts have to do with the catalysts that are used in industry? Actually, more than you might expect.

Industrial Catalysts Make things Happen Too

Industrial catalysts are substances that are used in industry to speed up, start, or facilitate chemical reactions. Catalysts also are used to lower the amount of energy that is consumed by certain chemical processes.

Absorbent materials are another form catalysts can take; they are chemicals that are used to absorb and remove certain chemicals from compounds where they are found. For example, BASF makes a variety of products that absorb and remove impurities from natural gas before it is distributed to consumers. Those products are catalysts of a special kind.

We even have catalysts in our bodies. They are the enzymes that help in bodily processes like digestion.

The bottom line is that catalysts are just about everywhere. And they are pretty amazing. They help in a surprisingly large variety of industrial processes that include:

  • Production of gasoline, diesel and other liquid fuels

  • Manufacturing of a variety of medicines, most often those that contain metallic elements

  • Processes that remove impurities from natural gas, oxygen, water and other liquids and gases

  • Plating operations

  • The manufacturing of industrial chemicals that are used in hundreds of processes, including the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, paints and coatings, and even cosmetics

We are writing about them today because they represent a source of precious metals that you can recycle profitably.

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What Metals Can Be Extracted from Industrial Catalysts?

It depends on how those catalysts were used, what they contain, and other factors.

But these examples will put the question in perspective . . .

  • Platinum and rhodium (both precious metals) are used in industrial catalysts that are used in chemical plants where nitric acid is made.

  • Platinum and rhenium are used as industrial catalysts in chemical plants where naphtha is made.

  • Nickel is used as a catalyst in the production of ammonia.

  • Aluminosilicates, which contain aluminum and silicate, are widely used in the production of gasoline and other fuels. Note that aluminosilicates are also used in water purification operations. One widely used aluminosilicate catalyst is Zeolite, a naturally occurring mineral that contains aluminum, silicate, boron and other substances. Zeolite can be purchased in a largely unprocessed state, just as it was mined. However, it is also available as a processed, powdered substance that can be easily introduced in chemical processing operations.

  • Vanadium, which appears on the Periodic Table with the atomic number 23, is an element that is used principally as a catalyst in the production of sulfuric acid.

  • Platinum, a precious metal, is used in catalysts for the production of butene and other chemicals.

  • Nickel, a non-precious and common metal, is used as a catalyst in the production of carbon dioxide and natural gas products.

  • Iron, which oxidizes readily and is one of the most common elements on Earth, is used in the production of many organic compounds. (To review, organic compounds are compounds that contain carbon.)

What Form Do Industrial Catalysts Take?

Catalysts and catalyst-bearing chemicals are used by industries in a variety of forms . . .

  • As liquid chemicals that are introduced into production processes

  • As minimally processed powdered minerals or “manufactured” powdered chemicals

  • As manufactured cakes that are introduced into production processes

  • As electrodes and bars that are immersed into liquids where chemical processes are happening

  • As pebbles, flakes or chips that can be introduced into liquids where chemical processes are taking place

What Do Used Industrial Catalysts Look Like?

Depending on what they contain and how they were used, they could be findable in one of these forms . . .

  • As powders or grains of the catalyst that remain behind after doing their work.

  • As tiny trace quantities that can be found in byproducts of industrial processes. If a liquid has been used to remove impurities from a metal on the production line and then has been drained off, for example, it could still contain small amounts of the precious metal that it contained.

  • In stainless steel baskets that were immersed in chemicals so they could serve as catalysts that supported chemical reactions.

  • In sludge and goo that accumulate in many places, including on the bottom of tanks where chemical reactions took place, on the bottom of steel drums that are used to collect chemical byproducts prior to disposal, in factory drains and drainage filters, and even on the floors of buildings where chemical processes were completed.

  • In bottles and drums of unused chemicals that were intended for use in industries that include plating, pharmaceutical manufacturing, metal production, printing, and others.

  • In metal bars that were submerged so they could serve as catalysts in chemical production.

You’re getting the idea. Used industrial catalysts come in many shapes and varieties – they do not all look the same. If you don’t know what you have, or if you only suspect that you are looking at could be an industrial catalyst, let us repeat one piece of advice. Contact Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344 and let us test it for you.

“Hidden” Catalysts

Did you know that some of the chemicals that you are using in your operations could contain metallic and other industrial catalysts, even though you might not know that those catalysts are there?

Some common examples include the chemicals that were once commonly used in processing photographic and x-ray films. These chemicals, even though they are not labeled with the words “Industrial Catalyst,” almost always contain quantities of silver that served a catalytic function that enabled the developing liquid to interact with chemicals that the film contained. And that silver can be extracted via chemical processes.

Inks are another commonly used chemical that often contains silver, which can react with chemicals in special papers to produce vibrant colors or dry more quickly. Again, inks often contain silver and other chemicals that act as catalysts. Our precious metal refinery can reclaim silver and other valuable chemicals from many inks.  

And don’t catalytic converters contain quantities of platinum and other precious metals that act as catalysts that react with exhaust gases that come from both gasoline and diesel engines? Yes, they do. In industry, very large catalytic converters that are attached to the engines that power generators and other equipment can contain enough platinum to recycle profitably.

How Much Precious Metal Do Industrial Catalysts Contain?

The answer is, it depends on what the catalyst is, how it was prepared for use, and how it is used.

Some catalysts that contain platinum, for example, contain only trace amounts of that precious metal – in some cases, as little as .O15 percent. In other cases, your used catalyst could contain much larger amounts of precious and non-precious metal that can be extracted by a qualified precious metal refinery like Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners.

How Can You Get Paid for the Precious Metals that Your Industrial Catalysts Contain?

Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners can test your catalysts in our modern laboratories, provide you with a report that lists the metals they contain, along with an estimate of what those metals will be worth if we recycle them for you and separate them.

Your next step is to call us at 800-426-2344, tell us what you have – or even what you think you might have – and let us explain your options.

There is money to be made in industrial catalysts. Let us show you how.