By Sudarshan Varadhan
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's government is in favor of banning imports of petroleum coke on environmental grounds, according to a government affidavit filed with the country's top court, which could be a big blow to U.S. refiners who export heavily to the country.
The Supreme Court, which in October banned the use of petroleum coke in and around New Delhi in a bid to clean the air in one of the world's most polluted cities, is scheduled to hear a case on its use across the country later on Monday.
India is the world's biggest consumer of petroleum coke, better known as petcoke, which is a dark solid carbon material that emits 11 percent more greenhouse gases than coal, according to the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.
Burning it also emits several times more sulfur dioxide, which causes lung diseases and acid rain.
Local producers include Indian Oil Corp, Reliance Industries and Bharat Petroleum Corp.
The oil ministry has also told the Supreme Court that petcoke should only be used as feedstock, like in the cement industry, and not as fuel.
A country-wide import ban would require replacing 14 million tonnes of petcoke a year with 24 million to 31 million tonnes of coal, according to industry calculations, most of which has to be imported.
(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Writing by Krisna N. Das; Editing by Joseph Radford)