You Be The Judge :: BP Whiting Refinery

by derek on July 25, 2007 · 5 comments

About a week ago there was an article in the Chicago Tribune about the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana receiving a break on dumping more ammonia and sludge into Lake Michigan.
As you might expect in a case like this with accusations being made, each side of the coin contains a separate story and it becomes a game of figuring out who to believe.
This story hits home for me because I live quite close to Lake Michigan (although we do not have Lake Michigan water where I live) and I also use BP almost exclusively.
He Said :: She Said
For those that might not be as familiar with this story, here are links to the original article in the Chicago Tribune and a fact sheet about the Whiting, Indiana refinery provided by BP:

While the refinery will still be operating within the confines of the federal water pollution guidelines, there is still cause for concern and makes one question the motivation of the Indiana state regulators that have approved this increase in dumping.
The Good and The Bad
In an effort to gain a better understanding of the situation and make an informed decision, I’m going to review and comment on a few of the claims and/or facts from both the Chicago Tribune article and the information provided by BP.

BP plans to spend more than $3 billion to modernize the Whiting Refinery to process additional heavy crude oil from Canada, a secure and reliable source.

This is something that I am personally happy to see because it will hopefully reduce our crude oil dependency on the Middle East. With the instability throughout the Middle East (I will refrain from sharing my thoughts on that), I think it is very important that we do anything possible to explore additional sources of crude oil.
Unfortunately, refining the crude oil from Canada is a more intensive process that requires more energy and produces higher levels of waste product. Given that BP will still be operating within the federal water pollution guidelines, I am prone to be in favor of refining the Canadian crude oil if it means less reliance on sources in the Middle East.

The Whiting Refinery produces gasoline, diesel and jet fuel people need for their daily lives.

Of particular importance to people in the Midwest, this refinery is the largest supplier of gasoline to Midwest markets and can have a large impact on the price at the pump. About two weeks ago there was a leak detected in a distillation unit that required BP to temporarily shut operations down. As a result the prices at the pump jumped by about $0.30 per gallon but has been coming back down since the leak was repaired.
Will the ability to refine crude oil from Canada have an impact on the fuel that is delivered out of this refinery? Because the process is more intense does that mean the cost at the pump would be more or less? With my preference for purchasing fuel from BP and my geographic location, these questions are rather important to me but right now I don’t know the answer.

Today the refinery has about 1,700 employees and another 1,500 contract workers. The planned modernization will create new jobs for about 2,000 contract workers during peak construction, as well as an estimated 80 full-time BP employees when complete.

As much as I like to see new jobs added into the economy, I don’t like to see this used as justification for increasing the levels of waste products being dumped into Lake Michigan. Further, with an operation of this size I am not overly impressed with the relatively small number of full-time jobs that will become available.
The increase in the job force is less than 5% of their current staff, although the increase during peak construction would be much more significant. The low number of long-term jobs is a concern to me as I would like to see more benefit to the local economy.
What It Means To Me
This post is kind of out of left field given the regular topic of my posts on this blog and even though this is a sponsored post, I do feel quite close to this situation and these issues have been discussed around the dinner table with my family more than a few times.
With that said, I do believe that this is a positive move even though there will be additional dumping into Lake Michigan. The main reason that I am in support of this is because of the additional source of oil supplies to the Midwest and I think it is short-sighted to discount the importance of lessening our reliance on the Middle East.
However, while I can understand that BP may not have the space on-site to improve their water treatment facilities, I would like to see them make an effort to reduce the levels of pollution by any means available. While they are still within federal limits, any increase in pollution is cause for concern. Without knowing the surrounding area, I would question whether BP would have the ability to purchase surrounding property to build a more efficient water treatment plant.
What do you think about this situation? Is the increase in pollution justifiable if we can reduce the dependency on the Middle East for our supplies of crude oil or should we protect the environment at any cost?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Leo July 25, 2007 at 1:58 am

Lol, ironic that I just posted this story:
, only to come here and find your related story.


Stephen July 25, 2007 at 3:48 am

Isn’t BP the company that does those cutesy commercials with the DUPLO (lego) people?


derek July 25, 2007 at 8:59 am

@Leo :: That is funny timing – that isn’t your Civic loaner car in the picture is it?
@Stephen :: I’m not sure that I have seen a BP commercial with Duplo people but it is possible.


Leo July 25, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Haha, no, I wasn’t caught in the blast. Besides, even my loaner Civic is nicer than that turd.


Michiana Directory April 30, 2009 at 1:15 pm

What came about of this issue? I had missed it at the time. Is the dumping still going on. The dependence on the middle east for oil situation has changed a lot since Iraq.


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