India to phase out ‘petcoke’ imports after AP probe

NEW DELHI (AP) – India’s government said it plans to phase out imports of a dirty fuel known as petroleum coke, or ‘petcoke’, after an Associated Press investigation found US 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 government this week argued in court that restrictions on petcoke around polluted New Delhi should be eased for certain low-impact industries. The move has infuriated environmentalists.

The AP investigation found the US sold about 20 times more petcoke to India last year than it did six years earlier after US refineries struggled to sell the product at home.

Domestically produced petroleum coke is loaded onto a truck to be transported to factories, at a railway station in Rampur, about 210 kilometres from New Delhi, India, July 14. – AP

In 2016, the US sent more than eight million metric tonnes 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 sulphur 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 the imports.