BP Refinery Oil Spills into Lake Michigan

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 @ 02:03 PM gHale


Because of a malfunction, oil leaked from BP Plc’s Whiting refinery in Indiana into Lake Michigan Monday afternoon, company officials said.

The malfunction occurred at a just upgraded processing unit at the refinery. Between 10 and 12 barrels, or around 500 gallons, of crude oil spilled into the lake, according to a local CBS report citing a source. In and of itself, this is a small spill.

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The leak had stopped on Tuesday and there were no injuries reported, BP said in a statement. It declined to comment on the volume of oil spilled.

As crews worked on the cleanup on this industrial stretch of shoreline, the effect on Lake Michigan was not immediately clear. Two dozen workers were shoveling up sand on the shore that looked lightly tarred by oil. A vacuum truck was sucking up oily water.

The spill is another body blow to BP, which took a big hit after the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. That was the worst offshore spill in U.S. history, spewing millions of barrels of oil into the ocean and leaving 11 dead.

Only this month was BP allowed to bid again on new federal drilling leases after the government lifted a two-year ban.

BP laid down containment boom on the water and said the oil remained confined to a cove between the refinery’s wastewater treatment plant and a steel mill.

Winds pushed the oil toward the shore and cold temperatures were causing it to harden into a waxy consistency, making it easier to collect, BP spokesman Scott Dean said. “I’ve had no reports of any wildlife impacted,” said Dean.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard and state regulators were at the scene.

The largest crude distillation unit at the 405,000-barrel-per-day refinery was operating normally again on Tuesday after the malfunction led to the leak, Dean said. The 260,000-bpd crude distillation unit, called Pipestill 12, was the centerpiece of a $4 billion refit of the Whiting refinery completed late last year to run large amounts of oil from Canada’s tar sands fields in Alberta.

A crude distillation unit does the initial refining of crude oil coming into a refinery and provides feedstock for all other units at the plant.

The refinery has been increasing the amount of Canadian crude oil running through Pipestill 12 during the first quarter of this year.

The Whiting refinery is the primary focus of BP’s U.S. refining strategy to use only plants in the northern United States that have in easy access to Canadian crude oil. BP sold plants in Texas and California last year as part of the strategy.



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