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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:00 am

India to phase out imports of dirty fuel

Associated Press

NEW DELHI – India's government says it plans to phase out imports of a dirty fuel known as petroleum coke, or “petcoke,” after an Associated Press investigation found U.S. oil refineries are exporting vast quantities of the product to India.

But when it comes to domestic use, the Indian government seems to be going in a different direction.

The AP investigation found the U.S. sold about 20 times more petcoke to India last year than it did six years earlier after U.S. refineries struggled to sell the product at home. In 2016, the U.S. sent more than 8 million metric tons of petcoke to India, enough to fill the Empire State Building eight times over.

Petcoke is a bottom-of-the-barrel leftover from the refining of Canadian tar sands crude and other heavy oils. It's cheaper and burns hotter than coal. But laboratory tests on imported petcoke used near New Delhi found it contained 17 times more sulfur than the limit set for coal.

A day after the AP investigation was published, Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the government was formulating a policy to end imports.

But on Monday, the environment ministry argued in an affidavit against a ban on the use of petcoke and furnace oil in New Delhi and surrounding states. The Supreme Court imposed the ban in October.

The ministry said it wanted certain industries such as cement manufacturing to be able to use a small amount of petcoke for about a year until they could come up with alternatives.