Faced with public and Congressional opposition to a planned, permitted increase in the daily discharge of ammonia and total suspended solids from its Whiting refinery into Lake Michigan to enable it to increase the amount of Canadian heavy crude it can process, BP has promised to operate the refinery to meet the lower discharge limits contained in the refinery’s previous wastewater treatment permit.
The state of Indiana had given BP regulatory approval to increase average daily discharge limits for ammonia from 1,030 to 1,584 pounds per day (+54%) and for total suspended solids (TSS) from 3,646 to 4,925 pounds per day (+35%) to modernize the Whiting refinery. The permit also gave BP until 2012 to meet strict federal limits for mercury discharges.
The $3.8 billion project at the Whiting refinery is designed to increase the amount of Canadian heavy crude processed at the more than 400,000 barrel-per-day refinery from 30% to 90% and also creates the capacity to increase production of ultra-low-sulfur gasoline and diesel fuels by 1.7 million gallons a day. (Earlier post.)
The proposed Whiting Canadian extra heavy oil project includes installing the following major process units and upgrades to existing equipment:
A world-scale coking unit, a revamped crude distillation unit and petroleum coke handling facilities that triple resid conversion capacity;
A hydrogen production plant;
A gas oil hydrotreater and revamped existing hydrotreaters to maintain compliance with sulfur specifications for fuels;
Sulfur recovery facilities; and
Refinery infrastructure facilities to support the additional heavy crude oil processing.
The replacement processing units and enhancements to existing refinery units will increase Canadian heavy crude oil processing capability by about 260,000 barrels per day.
The Whiting Refinery currently produces about 4.5 billion gallons of transportation fuels each year, enough to supply more than 5 million vehicles.
We have participated in an open and transparent permitting process with the State of Indiana and obtained a valid permit that meets all regulatory standards and is protective of water quality and human health. Even so, ongoing regional opposition to any increase in discharge permit limits for Lake Michigan creates an unacceptable level of business risk for this $3.8 billion investment.
We will not make use of the higher discharge limits in our new permit. We’re not aware of any technology that will get us to those limits but we’ll work to develop a project that allows us to do so. If necessary changes to the project result in a material impact to project viability, we could be forced to cancel it.—Bob Malone, BP America Chairman and President
During the next 18 months, BP will continue to seek issuance of other permits, continue project design and explore options for operating within the lower discharge limits. BP America has notified the State of Indiana of its decision and reiterated its dedication to the proposed refinery expansion.
BP has already agreed to participate with the Purdue Calumet Water Institute and the Argonne National Laboratory in a joint effort to identify and evaluate emerging technologies with the potential to improve wastewater treatment across the Great Lakes. Malone announced that BP will provide a $5 million grant to Purdue University to help underwrite the research effort.
The award of the permit earlier this year touched off public opposition, as well as a 25 July Congressional resolution, introduced by US Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), urging the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to reconsider.
I haven’t seen anything like this in 10 years. People are waking up and saying we need to restore the Great Lakes, not turn back the clock to the days of increased industrial pollution.—Cameron Davis, President, Alliance for the Great Lakes
The Whiting refinery is BP’s second-largest and the largest in the Midwest region. The Whiting refinery currently produces approximately 16 million gallons of product daily, half of it gasoline, and about one-quarter of it diesel. Other major products produced besides diesel fuel include furnace oil, asphalt, propane, xylene and petroleum coke.