First a bit of back story: The Koch Brothers own a giant pile of high-sulfur, high-carbon petroleum waste called petroleum coke, sitting on the bank of the Detroit River. By “giant pile” I mean three stories high and a block long. There is a refinery across the river that processes tar sands from Canada. The coke is a waste byproduct of that refining process.
Naturally, the locals are not too keen on it.
But one man’s waste is another man’s low-cost, high pollution power plant fuel, so that’s where the Koch Brothers have a business angle. That raises the next question of concern to environmentalists (and people with lungs and… earthlings): if the Koch brothers are selling piles of their black mountain to be burned, who’s doing the burning?
Enter our hero, MarineTraffic.com. The International Maritime Organization requires all ships over a certain size to carry something called an AIS transponder. The AIS transponder transmits basic data like position, speed, course, and the ship’s name. MarineTraffic.com maps that data.
So when observers see a ship called the Atlantic Huron being loaded up with the Koch’s coke, they enter the name and track it. One of the options in the vessel’s search result is “Show Vessel’s Track” and clicking that gives you a green line that shows roughly a day’s worth of travel. When I looked yesterday, the green like started at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and when down to Quebec City. Right now it looks like it’s docked in Montreal.
I don’t know if the Atlantic Huron is still doing petcoke deliveries, but when it was spotted at the Kochs’ black heap, observers were able to follow where it went next, all the way to Nova Scotia where they figured out there are two plants licensed to burn coke fuel.