Petroleum Coke Considered as Threat to Public Health as well as Environment

Petroleum coke, also known as petcoke is a solid rock material and an outcome of a refined crude oil as well as various other cracking methods. Petcoke is regarded as a valuable commodity across the globe. After the refining process, the residual crude oil is later processed in cokers to produce petcoke. Various grades of petroleum coke such as catalyst coke, shot coke, needle coke, etc. are produced by changing the used raw material’s quality, coking time length and coking operation temperature. All grades differ in their volatile organic content (VOC) and physical properties. Around 80% of petcoke is used as a source of energy in many industries because of its high calorific value.

The chief end users of petcoke are power plants and cement kiln. Petcoke is also used for creating anodes for electric arc furnaces (EAFs), in the manufacturing of metal. High sulphur and low grade petcoke are usually used as a source of energy whereas low sulphur and high-grade petcoke are used for other purposes by the manufacturers. Petcoke is a profitable substitute to coal with greater calorific value and lesser ash content. According to Persistence Market Research’s ongoing study, growth of construction & cement industry together with advanced technology for oil production can drive the global petroleum coke market.

India’s Coal Imports from North America Likely to Increase

According to a recent news, India’s coal imports from North America is probable to surge as customers plan to increase purchases within a domestic shortage of the fuel and a provincial ban on petcoke. Thomson Reuters provided shipping data which displays that the coal imports of India from North America has tripled to 2.1 million tonnes recently. Other sources also mention that, the figure is lower at 1.47 million tonnes and the coal imports in the early November had reached only 1.14 million tonnes.

Petcoke’s ban is considered as advanced burning substitute to coal. This move is anticipated as India’s plans to buy more coal from the US in the forthcoming times. In India, some states around New Delhi have banned petcoke, which otherwise is fighting heavy smog, also considered as one of the world’s most polluted cities. Due to rise in pollution, environmentalists are requesting the entire nation to ban the import and use of the petcoke.

Ban on Petcoke Increases Demand for the U.S. Coal

A senior executive from one of the top three Indian cement companies mentioned that, every cement company is in search for an alternative to petcoke and moreover, everyone is rushing for US coal. According to the data of trade, cement companies account for around 75% of India’s yearly demand for petcoke, which means, it has doubled over the past 4 years to more than 27 million tonnes. Also, minor industries such as lime manufacturers are considering the use of U.S. coal, whose efficiency is equal to petcoke.

The cost of a tonne of 6,900 kg/kcal U.S. coal is Rs. 8,200-8,300, which is $126-$128, on online coal marketplace, coalshastra. The ban on petcoke may discourage Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal to cut India’s coal imports. It has increased since past two months for the first time after subsiding in the past few years.

The noteworthy factor is that the ban on petroleum coke is a positive action taken towards curbing air pollution which ultimately protects people from harmful effects of industrial operations. Though, for industries using petcoke, installing air pollution control systems or using alternate fuels might not be economically and technologically viable.

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Nikhil Kaitwade

With over 8 years of experience in market research and consulting industry, Nikhil has worked on more than 250 research assignments pertaining to chemicals, materials and energy sector. He has worked directly with about 35 reputed companies as lead consultant for plant expansion, product positioning, capacity factor analysis, new market/segment exploration, export market opportunity evaluation and sourcing strategies.