Petcoke from U.S. Compounds India’s Pollution Menace: Report
Export of petcoke to India could soon be stopped if a nationwide ban comes into place.
The United States is exporting large amounts of a dirty fuel waste to energy-hungry India, the Associated Press reported citing a recent investigation. However, that could soon change after the petcoke ban came into place in three states and the capital city in India.
Petroleum coke or petcoke is the leftover product of refining Canadian tar sands crude and other heavy oils, which the United States has been selling to India to meet its energy needs. It sold 8 million metric tons to India in 2016 alone. The Supreme Court of India banned the use of petcoke and furnace oil in the National Capital Region effective Nov. 1 after the alarming smog condition in Delhi-NCR.
The level of air pollution in the region had been dubbed a medical crisis. The SC decision hit cement producers, since they require petcoke the most. It contains carbon that can cause global warming, and lung-damaging sulfur. It contains 75,000 ppm (parts per million) sulphur.
Cement producers shifted to petcoke from coal in the last few years due to its low cost. Almost 70 per cent of the requirement of energy for cement production is met through petcoke, according to data quoted by Livemint.com.
The court also said that it would ban the use of petcoke in the neighboring states of Rajasthan, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh if their governments did not stop the industries by Nov. 1. By Nov. 17, the ban across the three states was in place even with industry bodies protesting.
Industries had sought time for putting the ban in place. While moving to coal is inevitable, the industries would also require more coal than they required petcoke, which can lead to an increase in cement prices.
“The industries are already under tremendous stress after the implementation of GST and the ban on use of pet coke will prove to be the final nail in the coffin. Over 25 lakh workers will be rendered jobless in Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurugram (formerly Gurgaon), Panipat, Sonipat and Noida alone,” the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (Assocham) had said in a statement. Stocks of cement companies were affected by the petcoke ban in November 2017. JK Lakshmi, JK Cement, Shree Cement, Birla Corp, ACC, Ambuja, UltraTech and India Cement were dumped by investors on Nov. 20 after the ban came into place.
American refineries export the product worldwide where low-cost, more heat producing fuel is required.
India is not only importing it from the United States but also making its own. The country created 13.94 million ton of petcoke in 2016-17, according to the Hindu BusinessLine.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court suggested that the ban should be nationwide: “We may note that pollution caused by petcoke… is not a problem confined only to the NCR region but appears to be a problem faced by almost all states and Union Territories (UTs). For the present, we do not propose to give any direction to any other States and UTs but we request all the State governments and UTs to consider taking similar measures as have been taken by Government of India (in NCR).”