Dr. John Clark - Clark Coking Consulting
he demand and price of needle coke has been in global decline over the last decade (2010-2020). However, within the last two years there has been a substantial global resurgence in high purity needle coke demand, driven by the downstream steel sector. In addition, the recent exponential year-on-year growth of the Electric Vehicle (EV) battery market has further exacerbated high purity needle coke production initiatives. The demand for high performance, high purity needle coke will cement an associated resurgence of global needle coke pricing. However, the requirement to process heavier, higher sulphur crude oil and the decline in coal-tar quality will be a distinctive disadvantage in preparing high purity needle coke in a DCU.
The demand for higher volumes of higher purity, higher in-situ performance needle cokes is thus coupled in contrast with an anticipated needle coke quality decline. Additionally, there is increased competition from the shipping market to attract refinery residual products from low sulphur crude oils (a historical pre-feedstock for needle coke). The quality concerns which have plagued the needle coke / graphite electrode market for years will be additionally exacerbated by emerging demand for pure high-performance needle cokes from the EV battery market. Historically, aromaticity has been the key quality attribute of DCU needle coke feedstock. However, aromatic fossil fuel feedstock is intrinsically associated with thermally stable nitrogen and sulphur contaminants, which threaten to undermine future in-situ quality performance of needle coke graphite electrodes (puffing reaction) and environmental sustainability drives (mainly SOx, NOx, carcinogens) within the industry.
Thus the identification of a novel contaminant (nitrogen, sulphur and metal) free needle coke DCU feedstock would go a long way to satisfy future demand and quality concerns. In a search for novel DCU feeds, highly anisotropic needle coke (with no nitrogen or sulphur contaminants) has been developed from paraffinic FT waxy oil, a current DCU feed. This new era needle coke is unsurpassed in its purity, crystalline structure and performance while furthering the drive to reduce emissions from this industry. This is but one of future high quality DCU needle coke feedstock initiatives which will be necessary to sustain industry growth in an increasingly climate conscious business environment.
Dr. John Clark is a delayed coker feedstock and coke specialist. His career spans 25 years in various DCU arenas spanning R&D, Operations, Product Development, Engineering and Business Development. He has contributed to international coke research programmes, commercial DCU production and safety platforms with reference to needle, anode and fuel grade cokes. He has developed award winning coke inventions which have been commercialised on the basis of their performance, environmental sustainability and ease of operational DCU up-scaling. In his 25 years of DCU experience, he has been employed by Sasol (Research and Development) and Sasol Synfuels Marketing, in delayed coke initiatives.