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BP’s Whiting refinery reaches one third towards completion

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Since May 2008, BP has persisted with its US$ 3.8 billion modernisation project at the Whiting refinery, the largest single private investment in state history. Despite being faced with economic and fuel price crises, environmental protests and contract workers being arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, BP is pleased with its progress and is now one third of the way towards completion.

BP is retrofitting the refinery with new and upgraded equipment that will allow the facility to process more heavy crude arriving from Canada. Once the project is complete, the refinery will be able to produce a further 1.7 million gal./d of motor fuel.

Local economy and assistance
The project has also provided a huge boost to the local economy. The refinery employs approximately 1700 people and at peak construction periods, approximately 5000 contract workers could be employed. Assistance has been provided by other organisations in order to maintain progress. Tax abatement incentives have been offered by East Chicago; the Indiana Economic Development Corp. supplied an infrastructure grant of US$ 1 million; and ArcelorMittal leased land to BP for equipment storage. Providing the modernisation works continue as planned, BP could become the county’s largest taxpayer, with land and improvements valued at over US$ 103 million and company property listed at over US$ 310 million.

Environmental hurdles
While the Whiting project has made steady progress, legal issues have remained ever present throughout the construction process. Five cases are currently open in a state administrative court concerning the issue of an air permit to the refinery; BP’s calculation methods of pollution are being questioned, as well as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s approval of a more relaxed air permit.

Josh Mogerman, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said that certain pollution controls are being contended and that the facility will require infrastructure that has not yet been planned. Brad Etlin, a spokesman for BP, pointed out that from 2001 – 2006, the refinery has decreased its regulated emissions by 68% and that US$ 1.4 billion of the project cost is specifically for environmental improvements and meeting regulatory requirements. ‘As part of the modernisation, the refinery is removing older, less efficient equipment and installing emission controls on upgraded and other units in order to reduce our environmental footprint. These proactive, voluntary measures will help us reduce regulated emissions by another 7% by the time the modernisation is complete,’ said Etlin.

The project is scheduled for completion in early 2012.

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