Coke Works: US Steel Clairton Coke Works & Erie Coke Corporation
General Coke Information
Coke is a processed form of coal used in several industrial processes, but especially in iron ore smelting. To make coke, coal is heated to temperatures around 2100°F and baked in a coke oven for 15-30 hours. Several coke ovens grouped together are called a coke battery.
During the coking process, impurities are released from the coal which creates a refined coke product. Many of the impurities released are toxic chemicals. Some facilities have separate processing procedures that collect these chemical impurities and transform them into useful byproducts which can be sold or used during other manufacturing processes. In other cases, certain impurities are flared, or burned, to transform them into less toxic substances.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies coke oven emissions as among the most toxic of all air pollutants. Pollutants from coke plants are known to cause leukemia and other cancers, respiratory ailments, problems with the central nervous system, strokes and premature death.
Federal regulations establish minimum emission standards for coke ovens, and state and local regulators can set stricter standards. Many emission standards for coke ovens pertain to “visible emissions” — the density of the smoke that escapes from the ovens themselves or from associated pipes and stacks. Other pollutants that coke ovens produce may be subject to their own standards and may be monitored separately from visible emissions.