The Centre plans to allow the use of petroleum coke only in sectors that absorb the sulphur emissions in the manufacturing process and is working on increasing the customs duty on the fuel to discourage its imports.
“As far as domestically produced pet coke is concerned, its utilisation should be restricted to industries where sulphur is absorbed in the manufacturing process (for example cement industry and gasification plants) and not released in the atmosphere,” an inter-ministerial commitee headed by petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan decided last month.
“The Ministry of Environment & Forests will evolve a suitable mechanism to implement this restriction. The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas will issue advisory to the refineries to adhere to these restrictions and sell pet coke to prescribed industrial units,” the Committee decided on November 21.
Pradhan on Saturday said that various stakeholder ministries were working out a policy to put curbs for reducing the imports as well as its end-use. The rationale for opposing a blanket ban imposed by the Supreme Court on the use of pet coke in four states is a cost benefit analysis by the petroleum ministry which said that its domestic usage could not be stopped because its storage or disposal (following a prohibition) would create “a bigger environmental problem”.
Environment ministry too supported the regulation of domestic pet coke to industries like cement and pet coke gasification which resulted in “minimal pollution impact” but said that while its use in big industries could be monitored through emission standards, enforcement in others was “a challenging task”.
The panel said that industries using pet coke may shift to alternative fuels considering that state-run refineries were making plans to use domestic pet coke-for-gasification, a project that Reliance Industries Ltd pumped in $4.6 billion to convert its captive pet coke into synthetic gas.
The bottom-of-the-barrel fuel is widely used by cement, paper, brick kiln, chemicals and textile industries. The apex court last month imposed a generic ban on the use of pet coke and furnace oil in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and later refused to lift it. The two fuels have been banned in Delhi since 1996.
As for the ban on the import of pet coke, the committee was of the view that this was possible only if its use was completely banned in the country. “It may not be WTO compliant if the import is banned but its use in the country is permitted,” commented the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).
One alternative was to impose a higher customs duty — within the bound rates — on the imports to discourage the import of the fuel, it said. The DGFT would be asked to frame the norms for restricting the imports.
Import of pet coke has been growing and jumped from 3.3 million tonnes in 2012-13 to 14.4 million in 2016-17 when total national consumption hit 23.25 million due to relative high heat value and cheaper availability.
The November 21 meeting was called after the Prime Minister’s Office directed ministries to consider steps to curb pollution, including advancing BS-VI fuel introduction deadline and banning the import of pet coke, a refinery byproduct.