The Supreme Court on Wednesday eased its ban on use of petcoke in cement and limestone industries while directing the Centre to frame regulations for the limited use of the cheap but highly polluting industrial fuels. A bench headed by justice Madan B Lokur directed the government to modify its notification permitting the use of petcoke in cement and limestone manufacturing, lay down regulations for such use and ensure that it isn’t diverted for use in other industries. It also directed the government to consult all stakeholders on the issue of import of petcoke. The order was passed after the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) and EPCA agreed that the use of petcoke in cement isn’t harmful due to absorption of sulphur.
MoEF had earlier this month challenged the ban on use of petcoke in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, claiming that its use is integral to the cement industry before it found a suitable alternative. It had requested the court to relax ban on use of petcoke and furnace oil for a certain period for power generation and cement manufacturing industries.
It submitted that the use of petcoke in cement manufacturing plants was minuscule and it was used for non-fuel purposes. Similarly, the use of furnace oil in electricity generation plants was low in cement manufacturing units, it said, adding that petcoke would only be used as feedstock and not as a fuel.
Cement companies had argued that since pet coke is used in the kiln as a feedstock, it’s not as polluting as using pet-coke as a fuel by power plants. In a series of steps to control high levels of pollution in the National Capital Region , the Supreme Court on October 24 banned the use of petcoke and furnace oil, effective from November 1.
It made it clear that the ban would be extended to the neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh if the governments did not prohibit their use in industries by November 1.
The use of petcoke and furnace oil is already prohibited in Delhi. Delhi banned the two fuels in 1996, but their use continued in NCR by cement factories, dyeing units, paper mills, brick kilns and ceramics manufacturers.