GARY | Contrary to what you may have heard, petcoke will not be shipped to Buffington Harbor, at least not as part of the first phase of development of a new industrial park, city and Carmeuse officials said.
Rumors have been swirling for weeks that petroleum coke, better known as petcoke, would be stored at a lakefront site Carmeuse Lime bought from Majestic Star Casino in Buffington Harbor. The company is planning to expand its 60-year-old Buffington Operation by using a cleaner-burning alternative to coal in its kilns to make limestone into lime.
"We've heard these concerns," said Carmeuse area operations manager Jeff Bittner at a news conference Monday. "I'm not sure where they came from. We have no plans to handle petcoke at that facility. We don't currently have petcoke facilities. We don't at this time have any plans to handle, use or move petcoke through that property."
Petcoke, a powdery byproduct of petroleum refining aroused controversy on Chicago's Southeast side last year. Heaping mounds of it were stored on the banks of the Calumet River, and wind blew black clouds of it into nearby neighborhoods.
The BP Whiting Refinery is now producing 2.2 million tons of petcoke a year – more than three times as much as it used to – now that is has been converted to handle more heavy crude from the oil sands region of Canada. The city of Chicago has taken steps to regulate its storage, and got Beemsterboer Slag Corp. to agree after a lawsuit to not accept, handle or store any more of it in the city.
Beemsterboer further agreed to remove the existing piles. The city and state are still pursuing legal action against KCBX Terminals Co., the other big petcoke handler in the Calumet Region.
The crackdown in Chicago has sparked concerns that the carbon material will be moved to Northwest Indiana instead. Carmeuse, a Belgium-based mining company, may have become the subject of rumors because the company spent $100,000 in 2008 to settle an Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit over burning petcoke in Kentucky.
Bittner said the company has had no plans to handle petcoke in Gary and it has not had any talks with KCBX or Beemsterboer about storing petcoke in the 200-acre industrial park it is developing with the city in Buffington Harbor.
Gary also has not had any talks with those companies or any others about storing petcoke in the new industrial park, which is just east of the Majestic Star Casino, redevelopment director Joseph Van Dyk said.
When asked if he could categorically say that petcoke would never be stored there, Van Dyk said he could not because it was a hypothetical discussion.