Imagine suddenly finding a mysterious black dust coating the furniture in your apartment. Thats what happened to many Detroiters in the Southwest region of the city this summer. After samples were submitted to the Ann Arbor based Ecology Center for testing, it was confirmed that this black dust was in fact petroleum coke, a waste product from the nearby Marathon Refinery. Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported on large piles of petroleum coke rising near the Detroit river. They were being trucked there by Koch Carbon. The coke was a result of processing dirty bitumen sands from the Alberta Tar Sands operations. The article states that: “The Marathon Detroit Refinery off South Fort Street last year completed a more than $2-billion expansion to allow for increased refining of heavy Canadian crude oil. Pet coke is a byproduct of tar sands oil refining that is used as a relatively inexpensive, though dirty-burning, fuel” (Mathenly 2013).
After much public outcry, the coke is being removed, reducing the threat to the nearby river and neighborhood residents. However, this may be very temporary, as Koch Carbon is applying for permits through the Michigan DEQ for storm-water and dust runoff. Clearly, this will be an reoccurring issue and it also begs the question, where will this waste go in the meantime? Environmentalist refer to this as NIMBY, or not in my back yard. In other words, consumers are demanding more oil products at more affordable prices, but do not want to deal with the byproducts, and who can blame them? In my mind, situations like this are the best argument for investment in alternative energy.
Images: Fox 2 Detroit