Petroleum Coke – A Dearer Energy Alternative to Coal

Petroleum coke, also commonly called petcoke, is one of the many substances manufactured during the refinement of crude oil. Crude oil is primarily processed into substances such as diesel fuel, gasoline, wax and, lubricating oils, leaving behind some residual crude that requires additional processing to be effectively used. This crude residue is further refined by a process known as coking. A coker, the machine used for coking residual crude, breaks down the large hydrocarbon molecules in the residual crude and produces petroleum coke.

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The primary chemical composition of global petroleum coke market is elementary carbon. Petroleum coke is typically used as a cheap source of energy, or as a source of elementary carbon for a number of industrial applications. The high calorific value, low cost, and low toxicity of petcoke makes it a preferred fuel option over coal and natural gas. Petroleum coke has been attributed as non-hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most toxicity analyses undertaken to establish the effect of petcoke on the environment as well as the human health have found that petcoke has a relatively low potential of causing adverse effects on the environment as well as in humans, with no development-, cancer-, or reproduction-related effects.

Of the two chief varieties of petroleum coke produced across the globe – fuel grade petroleum coke and calcined petroleum coke, fuel grade petcoke forms nearly 80% of the entire globe’s petcoke production. Fuel grade petcoke is heavily utilized as an alternative to coal in electric power plants and cement kilns. Calcined petcoke, the petcoke variety with the highest carbon-purity level, is used in the aluminum, titanium, steel, graphite electrode and other carbon intensive industries, as well as for power production.

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Petroleum Coke: A Valued Global Commodity

Production of petroleum coke through the process of coking is not a new technology; the first coker was installed at an Indiana Whiting oil refinery in 1930. Since then, the production of petroleum coke has significantly increased, and it is currently produced at nearly 140 oil refineries across the globe.The global commercial market for petroleum coke has also greatly evolved over the past years. Till the year 2008, approximately 55% of the overall petroleum coke produced by the U.S. was consumed by other regional markets of the globe. In 2012, the world market consumed at least 80% petroleum coke produced by the U.S. Demand for petroleum coke produced by other manufacturers is also high in the global market, largely due to high consumption of petcoke from the electricity generation industry because of its high calorific value, low ash, low potential hazards to the environment and human health, and lower costs relative to coal.

Transparency Market Research, a U.S.-based market intelligence firm, states that the global market for petroleum coke had a net worth of US$13,288.0 million in 2013. Growing with a CAGR of 8.5% between 2013 and 2020, the market is projected to reach US$ 24,117.9 million by 2020, according to research.Petroleum coke is a highly valued commodity and is traded in high volumes over the entire globe. Increased production and exports of petroleum coke are fueling the growth of many developing economies across the globe.Of the total petroleum coke produced in the global market, approximately 30% is used by the calcining industry, about 25% is used by the cement industry, 20% is used for power generation, 5% is used by the storage industry, 5% by the steel industry, and about 15% is used by other carbon-consuming industries.

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Asia Pacific is the leading consumer of petroleum coke. It accounted for nearly 32% revenue share of the entire market in 2013. Europe, following Asia Pacific’s position, accounted for a nearly 25% share of the market in the same year.

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