Hey, three of you asked!
Well, you don’t drink it, snort it, or shoot it up. Does that narrow the range of possibilities?
Chemically, it’s pure carbon. If you picked up a piece of it, you might think you were holding a piece of lightweight coal or even charcoal. It’s black and shiny, but upon close examination its structure looks like it’s made of tiny needles all lined up and lying side by side. Hence the name.
We sell it in bulk, by the metric ton. The pieces range in size from dust up to about softball size.
What’s it good for? One thing only: needle coke is the raw material used to make graphite electrodes. These electrodes conduct electricity into a huge refractory-(brick)-lined pot half-filled with scrap steel at Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) steel mills. Scrap steel like automobile bodies, old railroad tracks... you name it.
The electricity arcs between the graphite electrodes and the steel creating extreme, intense heat. Thus the steel is melted and can be poured out into castings to make new steel products. This is a very efficient method of steel manufacture, plus it’s a form of recycling on an industrial scale.
As the article referenced in yesterday’s post tells, outside of Japan (which doesn’t export) there are only two suppliers in the whole world of needle coke. My plant is one of those two. You talk about a niche market — this is it!
Who buys it? There are about 15 companies in the entire world that make these graphite electrodes—they are our customers. We ship to 5 companies in the US; and to Russia, China, India, Germany, France and Poland. So in the world (outside of Japan) there are two producers and maybe 15 potential buyers.
No need to advertise. All potential customers already know us well.
What’s it made from? Oil. Specifically from Decant Oil, the heavy tower bottoms that are left over from the catalytic cracking process of refining crude oil into gasoline. This oil is also sold as a fuel product, so its price has risen over the past year or so right along with the price of crude. Yes, our costs have gone up a bunch!
How much does it cost? Starting in July of this year we announced that all future sales would be priced at $1,500 per metric ton.
Are you bored yet? Sorry you asked?
Well, don’t feel stupid if you didn’t know what it was. I’d guess that well over 99% of the world’s population has never heard of it and couldn’t care less.
But it sure pays my bills and helped put my girls through college!
Now, the next time you’re at a cocktail party and the conversation turns to coke, you can wow ‘em with your knowledge!