India’s cement industry will import more petcoke in 2020 as it seeks to boost production, company executives said on Wednesday, signalling their enthusiasm for a fuel source banned in some states because of its sulphur content.
Petcoke, made from high-sulphur crude oil, has a higher calorific value than coal, but it also contains more sulphur. Indian use of the fuel as an alternative to coal for the cement industry rose marginally in 2019 after falling for the first time in nearly a decade in 2018, government data showed.
Speaking at the CoalTrans India conference, cement executives said they expected further petcoke growth this year, as the industry would expand output, but they did not give figures. Sanjay Kumar, strategic sourcing director at LafargeHolcim Energy Solutions, said he saw “higher imports of petcoke in 2020”.
Yagyesh Gupta, chief procurement officer at JK Cement also said imports of petcoke could increase, in line with the growth of the cement industry. Both executives said import levels could also be affected by the availability of coal, which can be disrupted by lack of rail wagons and inconsistent quality.
Depending on how competitive pricing is, the cement industry could import coal from Australia and parts of Europe, including Russia, Kumar said, while South Africa, which has traditionally exported to India, has begun sending more shipments to other southeast Asian regions such as Pakistan.
Major refining countries, such as the United States and Saudi Arabia, will benefit from any increase in buying from India, which relies on imports for nearly half its of its petcoke use.