BP says Whiting refinery still in production after fire

Published August 28, 2014

| Reuters

BP Plc said its largest U.S. refinery, at Whiting, Indiana, continued to operate on Thursday morning following a blaze the night before that was expected to have a minimal impact on production.

One worker was taken to an area hospital for treatment, but was later released, the company said.

BP said operations at the 413,500 barrel per day (bpd) Whiting refinery "were minimally impacted as a result of the incident and the refinery continues to produce products for customers."

Genscape, an energy information service provider, said all monitored units were operating normally except for the Blending Oil Unit, which shut at 9:04 p.m. That unit removes sulfur from distillate and gas oil streams, according to Genscape.

This incident comes nearly a decade after a 2005 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, killed 15 people and resulted in multi-million dollar settlements and tens of millions in fines for the company. The company sold that plant in 2013.

However, operational incidents, including small fires, at refineries are reasonably common, said Daniel Horowitz, the spokesman for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The Board, which investigates larger refinery fires, drew that conclusion after a report into a fire at a Chevron refinery. The CSB will follow-up with BP, but is unlikely to investigate a case that doesn't involve fatalities or offsite damage, Horowitz said.

The Whiting refinery is the seventh-largest refinery in the United States and the largest outside of the Gulf Coast.

The plant is the centerpiece of BP's shift over the past two years to emphasize using cheaper, heavy crude oil from Canada's tar sands fields in Alberta.

In November, BP completed a $4-billion revamp of the Whiting refinery to boost its intake of Canadian crude oil from 85,000 bpd to 350,000 bpd.

On July 29, BP's Chief Executive Bob Dudley said during a conference call that Whiting had been refining 270,000 bpd in heavy crude oil in the second quarter of this year and could likely run up to 300,000 bpd.

In its statement on Thursday, the company did not specify which unit was affected by the blaze, but said it was located in the north end of the refinery.

BP said the fire broke out at 9 p.m. Wednesday local time (0200 GMT Thursday). The fire was out by 10:55 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Firefighters from the city of Whiting were placed on stand-by to assist in battling the blaze, but the fire was contained and extinguished by BP's firefighting unit at the refinery.

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