Pet Coke in Corpus Christi
“What in the world is pet coke?”
I was recently asked this question by a Corpus Christi resident who wanted to know my opinion on the Las Brisas Energy Center project in their hometown. This facility, a 1,320 MW power plant located in Corpus’s Inner Harbor, is designed to burn pet coke to generate electricity for the area. Technically classified as a coal plant (it uses the same technology), this facility has local residents up-in-arms as they try to decipher complex reports from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that apparently ignore the fact most folks in the area don’t know what pet coke is…
Petroleum Coke (often called “pet coke”) is essentially a solid waste stream created at oil refineries that can be burned in power plants to generate electricity. This waste stream is produced when heavy crude oil is broken down under high temperature and pressure to create gasoline (and a few other things). It has been previously used in steel and aluminum manufacturing, but can also be used to generate electricity.
When burned, pet coke has very similar environmental impacts to coal-burning power plants. Both emit about the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and have similar effects on local air quality. Both require more than 400 gallons of water per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated (the average Austin home uses 1.2 MWh per month).