Government allows limited petcoke import; cement shares rise

The government allowed import of petcoke for use as feedstock in some industries, sending shares of cement manufacturers higher. Cement companies, which account for about three-fourths of the country’s petcoke use, were impacted by petcoke-related policy flip-flops, which began with a Supreme Court judgment banning the use of the fuel in and around New Delhi last year.

Shares of cement companies such as Ultratech Cement Ltd, Shree Cement Ltd, Ambuja Cements and ACC Ltd rose following the announcement. Shree Cement, one of the country’s significant users of petcoke, saw its shares rise as much as 3.6% to Rs 17,898, its highest level this month.

Usage of petcoke, a dirtier alternative to coal, in the energy-hungry country has come under scrutiny due to rising pollution levels in major cities.

India’s imports of petcoke have declined this year as cement companies substituted some of their petcoke with coal to avoid production delays due to pollution-related policy changes. As the world’s largest consumer of petcoke, India imports over half its annual petcoke consumption of about 27 million tonnes, mainly from the United States. Local producers include Indian Oil Corp, Reliance Industries, and Bharat Petroleum Corp.

India is the world’s biggest consumer of petroleum coke, which is a dark solid carbon material that emits 11% more greenhouse gases than coal, according to the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.

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.

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