The Petroleum Ministry on Monday told the Supreme Court that it is in favor of a ban on the import of petroleum coke, a solid non-volatile carbon residue left after the distillation and cracking of petroleum.
However, the environment ministry is yet to take the final call and will consult with all stakeholders before arriving upon a decision.
The Apex Court had, in December last year, refused to lift the ban on the use of pet coke and furnace oil in many industrial units in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana keeping in view the increasing level of pollution. It had also refused to give any relief to industrial units like the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) and Hindalco.
Petroleum coke, the bottom-of-the-barrel leftover from refining Canadian tar sands crude and other heavy oils, is cheaper and burns hotter than coal. But it also contains more planet-warming carbon and far more heart- and lung-damaging sulphur.
The petcoke burned in factories and plants is contributing to dangerously filthy air in India, which already has many of the world’s most polluted cities. It contains 17 times more sulfur than the limit set for coal, and a staggering 1,380 times more than for diesel.
The country has seen a dramatic increase in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions in recent years, concentrated in areas where power plants and steel factories are clustered. Those pollutants are converted into microscopic particles that lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing breathing and heart problems.
Petcoke, critics say, is making a bad situation worse across India. About 1.1 million Indians die prematurely as a result of outdoor air pollution every year, according to the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and industry.