India is mulling over the possibility of a nationwide ban on petcoke, the preferred fuel for captive power plants and the cement manufacturing industry.

A senior official in the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, told BusinessLine that currently the proposal was only to ban the fuel in Delhi-NCR. “The Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) has given its view on the issue of petcoke. We will file an affidavit with the SC soon,” the official said.

The Supreme Court had mandated a meeting of EPCA to ban petcoke and seek alternatives to the fuel in the National Capital.

When asked about a possibility of a pan-India ban, the official said the matter was under consideration and the Ministry was taking views on an all-India ban. However, no decision had been taken yet.

Sunita Narain, Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment and member of the EPCA, said, “We have recommended a ban on petcoke in Delhi-NCR, but one needs to look at banning it across India as it is a very highly polluting fuel.”

Restricting import

She added that a restriction was needed on the import of petcoke, which is a refinery by-product, as countries such as the US and China were using India as a “dumping ground”.

The EPCA has currently recommended that the use of the fuel be allowed for cement manufacturers but not for captive power generation.

The cement industry, however, is still concerned about the possibility of a blanket ban and what it could mean for the industry. Independent cement manufacturing consultant J D Baghpat said: “The ban will offset the energy savings and lowering of ash-content that come by using petcoke. Due to its higher calorific value, petcoke generates higher energy than other available resources such as mineral coal. The sulphur content too, is removed before it goes to air in cement manufacturing.”

Preferred alternative

A possible ban on petcoke dampens the prospects of captive power producers and cement manufacturers that prefer this fuel as an alternative to more expensive fuels.

Rajiv Agarwal, Secretary at the Indian Captive Power Producers Association, said: “Petcoke is the currently available fuel for captive power producers as larger volumes of coal are diverted for independent power producer and public sector power generation projects. Generally, power producers use a mix of 20 to 30 per cent petcoke with coal to keep sulphur emissions under check and to sustain the life of the plant. The government will have to ensure free availability of cheap coal if they want to go ahead with the ban.”