Global demand for platinum in the autocatalyst market increased to a record level of 4.20 million ounces in 2006, 11 per cent more than in 2005. The main force behind this growth was the continuing success of the diesel engine in capturing market share from the gasoline engine in Europe, with platinum employed both on catalysts and on particulate filters fitted to light duty diesel vehicles. Outside Europe, rising vehicle production maintained platinum consumption on light duty vehicles at levels close to those of 2005, countering the ongoing trend to minimize platinum use in three-way catalysts by replacing it with palladium. Emissions control equipment fitted to heavy duty diesel vehicles also made a substantial contribution to metal demand in all regions.
Purchases of platinum by the jewellery trade fell in 2006 for the fourth year in a row. Rising and volatile metal prices had a negative impact on the platinum jewellery market, cutting demand for new metal by 18 per cent from previous year levels to 1.61 million ounces, the lowest figure for 14 years. While consumer demand remained strong in the major geographical markets, manufacturers and retailers were keen to reduce inventory levels for financial reasons, with the result that around a quarter of the metal fabricated into jewellery was sourced from existing stock. The Asian markets in particular saw large amounts of recycling compared to 2005 levels. Consumers were prompted to return old jewellery by high local prices; in China many of the returned pieces were traded in for new jewellery, whereas in Japan most were simply sold.
Overall demand from the chemical industry for platinum grew by 35,000 oz to a total of 360,000 oz in 2006, with its use in the production of paraxylene, silicones and nitric acid once more the key areas.
Platinum demand from the electronics and electrical sectors was strong in 2006, rising by 18 per cent to 425,000 oz. continuing rapid expansion in hard disk manufacturing was the most important factor, contributing 245,000 oz.
Demand for platinum from the glass industry increased by 30,000 oz in 2006, reaching 390,000 oz. Most of this growth was seen in Asia, with increases in production capacity for flat screen displays responsible for the bulk of demand.
The petroleum refining industry increased its demand for platinum in 2006 by 35,000 oz to a total of 205,000 oz. With oil prices having risen almost constantly since 2002, refiners have been operating at full capacity, leading to high replacement rates for catalyst charges. There was also significant construction of new plant in South Asia where most of the growth in demand originated.
Source: Platinum 2007, Johnson and Matthey