NREL Evaluating Performance of UPS Hybrids
Toyota Uncertain of Consumer Demand for Plug-Ins

BP Pledges No Increase in Lake Michigan Discharge Limits at Whiting Refinery

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 Alliance for the Great Lakes, which had filed a petition in court to suspend the permit, commended BP for the decision, but also called for assurances to lock it into place.

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.



Great news for the Great Lakes! Way to go BP, I bet you can do it and still profit. We'll back your efforts to reduce the other refineries' discharge limits if that helps. ;)


It's too bad they can't find a way to recover all that ammonia and convert it to fertilizer or something.


If it's too dilute, it would take more energy to recover the ammonia than to make the same amount.  Maybe BP could make a wetland with some bacteria to capture the particulates and ammonia and eliminate the problem?


Did I read that right? Indiana is permitting two tons of toxic dumping into Lake Michigan, everyday; over 700 tons a year! How can the people in Indiana continue to allow that?

I can't help but believe that these chemicals are useful in some way and BP's tossing away profits. Remember when some refineries use to flare off propane? perhaps the state of Indiana could help with university resources and seed money to solve the problems. Discharging chemicals of any quantity into waterway with today's scientific knowledge is unacceptable and is indirectly much more expensive because of the associated animal health problems because of the pollution.

Perhaps someone knows more details about what actions are being taken concerning a solution.

aussie paul

even if it is very dilute, it can be put directly onto plants via pipeline. one wonders what other nasties this discharge contains and if it would be easier to take them out than the ammonia


Even if the other contaminants were fit for use on crops, I suspect that the sheer volume of water would make it impractical to pump from the lakeshore to the nearest available fields.


I just did a Google earth search on the location of this refinery and I found it is at the only location where Indiana touches Lake Michigan, at the lowest reaches of the Lake, bordered by Illinois and Michigan. You can see there is a huge stream of bright colored water streaming out off shore of the base of the lake side of this huge refinery. If this refinery was located inland, without a lake near by, as many refineries are, how would you remove the toxic residue? There has to be a better answer than "we have always done it this way."

I'm not an environmentalist; but, from my basic chemistry classes, I know that many years of allowing this dumping could not have helped improve the lake but have served to destroy it. Don't the bordering states care that Indiana is allowing a company to destroy their lake fronts as well? I don't say close the refinery; we still need them because we are dependent on their products for the economy; but, at least clean them up.


Should dump it in the CEO's backyard. See if he cares then.

The comments to this entry are closed.