Sun Coke Company contends technology is
J. Patrick Eaken
debate continues on whether a proposal by U.S. Coking, Ltd. to
construct and operate a coking plant in Oregon will do more harm
than good or more good than harm.
get a better understanding of the technology involved in the
industry today, City of Oregon officials, environmental consultants,
business leaders, a reporter from the Metro Press, and even a
community member concerned enough to see it all for herself traveled
to East Chicago, Indiana to visit the Indiana Harbor Coke
Coke Company, which operates the plant, owns eight patents for the
heat recovery process that they say produces no or little emissions.
Sun Coke Technology Development Manager Mike Barkdoll confirmed that
U.S. Coking had to buy patent rights to be able to use the same
technology in the proposed plant in Oregon.
Coke Company also owns patents for this state-of-the-art technology
in every country of the world producing coke, except China and
Russia. Coke is described as the hardest metal made by man that when
heated at 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit still maintains its solidity, and
therefore can be heated to produce steel.
you travel to East Chicago you enter a world much like a science
fiction movie. There is industry stretching for miles along the Lake
Michigan coastline through Gary, Indiana complete with steel mills,
large industrial complexes, and smokestacks along every horizon.
Amidst it all, there are also marinas, casinos, hotels, and plenty
Coke Company engineers and operations managers took the tourists,
nine of them in all, to witness every aspect of the operation at
Indiana Harbor. The tour lasted four hours and the group walked
probably more than a mile through puddles and coke dust and onto
industrial platforms to witness the production.
are 288 ovens which heat coal into coke, four pusher-charger
machines, four hot cars that carry the coal to and from the ovens,
two conventional wet quench stations that cool the coal, coal silos,
two computer-controlled coke wharves, control rooms at a couple
locations, and much more covering enough acreage to provide for a
small college campus. U.S. Coking is proposing 240 ovens for the
tour guides took their visitors close enough to the ovens that they
could actually feel the heat being generated, watch the coal
transported to and from furnaces, and then took them into computer
rooms where operators monitored heat and emissions on computers
programmed with Microsoft Windows based operating systems. The
guides contend that the controls on these emission reports, produced
sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis, are proof that the technology
employed here meets the standards for safe
Coke Company representatives they invented the technology to be used
in the plant proposed for the Toledo area and used it at their first
facility built in rural Virginia in 1963. The technology was a
modification of an idea first generated by a coking company in
1963, the concept of the heat recovery system considered to be far
different than the combustion methods used generations ago began
with three ovens. When the experiment succeeded the company added
many more ovens and began full operations. Today, the company says
the Virginia plant produces 650,000 tons of coke a
Barkdoll says The Indiana Harbor plant is a six year old plant that
has already become outdated compared to some of the processes that
will be used at the plant proposed for Oregon. Here, rail cars
carrying coal in and out of the furnaces are to be contained
(completely enclosed) as will all coal and coke throughout the
plant. At Indiana Harbor, they are not.
Barkdoll addressed questions from Sylvania resident Sue Horvath
concerning mercury emissions and whether water is emitted into Lake
Michigan at the plant. Both are completely controlled, he says,
adding that practically no mercury is emitted and absolutely no
water is put back into the lake.
contends the Indiana Plant drops 17,000 gallons of water a day, but
3,000 evaporate into the air and 14,000 are used for cooling,
providing 100 percent reuse and no net discharge. Meanwhile, the
process prevents almost all the mercury from being emitted, whereas
in the older combustion coke plants all of the mercury was emitted.
Indiana Harbor plant sits next to a steel mill owned by Inland
Steel, therefore the steam at that site is used to produce
electricity to operate the steel mill. The Indiana Harbor plant
employs 120 people, most of whom are computer and machine operators,
compared to the 500 people that would have been needed at the older
plants, many of whom performed manual labor.
for a couple individuals who were seen spraying water to cool
processed coke, no employee during the tour was seen doing anything
other than operating controls. The entire process of converting coal
to coke using the new technology takes 48 hours. At the Indiana
Harbor plant much of the coal is shipped directly via conveyer belt
to the steel mill sitting next door and the rest is shipped out by
Ohio EPA is expected on Monday to announce whether or not they will
approve a final permit to allow for monitoring of air controls for
the plant in Oregon. Lance Traves, an environmental consultant, says
there are other permits that will have to be approved, giving
community members an additional chance to comment at a public
hearing. Mr. Traves firm, Labyrinth Management Group, with offices
in Canton, has contracted with U.S. Coking to aid in the company's
attempts to seek environmental permits.
draft permit already approved by the EPA states eight million pounds
of pollutants will be emitted into the air by the plant, close to
three times the amount emitted by a combustion coking plant that was
once located in East Toledo. But the new plant is also expected to
produce far more coke.
Coking consultants say that much of that figure of eight million
pounds is a result of research conducted on uncontrolled emissions,
where all mercury, sulphur dioxide, and other pollutants are emitted
freely into the air. But the consultants and technology managers
from the East Chicago plant say that figure is, in fact, nowhere
close to reality with this new technology.
say the day has come when industry can produce and burn coal so that
emissions can be either recycled or converted into something other
than a pollutant. Mr. Barkdoll says even the carbon monoxide that is
released at Indiana Harbor is actually in smaller proportions than
the carbon monoxide found in the atmosphere, adding that they are
doing more to "clean the air" in some cases.
confirm the findings, saying the public has totally misinterpreted
the capabilities of industry today. Whether or not the public,
especially environmental activists, believe their contentions are
another story after common knowledge about the history of what
industry has been doing to the environment for
Lucas County, levels will become non attainable for air permits once
again this summer. Part of the reason in any major city that
pollution levels are high is the large volume of carbon monoxide
emitted from automobile traffic. In Maumee Bay, environmentalists
say agricultural runoff has a lot to do with the problems with the
even go so far to say that one of the biggest pollutants today is
the methane produced by livestock and the sulphur from diesel fuel.
One consultant said the government has mandated that all sulphur, a
lubricant for diesel engines, must be removed from the fuel by 2006.
They are contending there are many more serious problems today than
those caused by industry, which they say is solving those problems
junket may have had the express purpose of demonstrating that "the
sky is not actually falling," as Oregon Councilman Mike Sheehy once
stated, but it did provide some proof that many of the conceptions
about modern coke plants are false. A railroad engineer, Mr. Sheehy,
was part of a crew that years ago transported coal to the old coke
plant in East Toledo. He admitted on the junket that the new plant
was exceptionally cleaner than what he remembered from previous
experiences at the former combustion plant.
Indiana Harbor Coke Plant is owned by the Sun Coke Company, which is
affiliated with Sun Oil, the same company that operates a refinery
in East Toledo. EPA officials on the junket warned not to assume Sun
Oil was an investor in U.S. Coking, however, it is still unknown
even to them who the actual investors actually