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Keywords:

  • impact assessment;
  • industrial ecology;
  • learning curves;
  • material flow analysis (MFA);
  • sustainable resource use;
  • technological development

Summary

A model of the use of the platinum group metals (PGMs) platinum, palladium, and rhodium in Europe has been developed and combined with a model of the environmental pressures related to PGM production. Compared to the base case presented in Part I of this pair of articles, potential changes in PGM production and use are quantified with regard to cumulative and yearly environmental impacts and PGM resource use, for the period 2005–2020. Reducing sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions of PGM producer Norilsk Nickel could cut the cumulative SO2 emissions associated with the use of PGMs in Europe by 35%. Cleaner electricity generation in South Africa could reduce cumulative SO2 emissions by another 9%. Increasing the recycling rate of end-of-life catalytic converters to 70% in 2020 could save 15% of the cumulative primary PGM input into car catalysts and 10% of the SO2 emissions associated with PGM production. In 2020, PGM requirements and SO2 emissions would be, respectively, 40% and 22% lower than the base case.

Substituting palladium for part of the platinum in diesel catalysts, coupled with a probable palladium price increase, could imply 15% more cumulative SO2 emissions if recycling rates do not increase.

A future large-scale introduction of fuel cell vehicles would require technological improvements to significantly reduce the PGM content of the fuel cell stack. The basic design of such vehicles greatly influences the vehicle power, a key parameter in determining the total PGM requirement.