BP commissions new coker at Whiting refinery

All of the major new units associated with the modernization project at BP's refinery in Whiting, Indiana, have been successfully brought on stream, the company said on Wednesday.

The start-up of the new 102,000 bpd coker in mid-November marked the last major milestone of the multi-year, multi-billion dollar modernization project at the facility in Northwest Indiana.

“The safe start-up of this world-scale coker is the last major step in unlocking the full potential of the Whiting Refinery for our shareholders,” said Iain Conn, CEO of BP’s downstream segment.  “The reconfigured refinery now has the flexibility to greatly increase heavy sour crude processing, delivering an expected incremental $1 billion of operating cash flow per year, depending on market conditions.”

The refinery is working through post-start-up troubleshooting activities and expects to be ready to begin the ramp up of progressively higher Canadian crude processing from year-end through the first quarter of 2014 as previously announced, according to the company.

“The Whiting refinery project has been at the heart of our US fuels strategy to operate sophisticated, feedstock-advantaged refineries tied to strong logistics and integrated into fuels marketing,” Conn said. “This world-class refinery is in the right location with the right equipment to process growing supplies of North American crude oil, including heavy grades from Canada."

The multi-billion dollar investment in the refinery is the largest private sector investment in Indiana history and also includes several hundred million dollars in new environmental equipment for water treatment and air emissions, according to Whiting refinery manager Nick Spencer.

“Along with the recent Toledo and Cherry Point Refinery upgrades and the successful completion of the Texas City and Carson Refinery divestments, the Whiting refinery modernization project repositions our fuels business in North America,” said Steve Cornell, chief operating officer for BP's US fuels business and head of refining and major projects.

Spencer credited the 1,900 Whiting employees and large contractor workforce for safely delivering the multi-year project.

“We’ve employed more than 10,000 skilled craftspeople here at Whiting the past several years preparing for this day and safety performance has been very good,” Spencer said. “Our focus now is to continue this high standard of safety performance as we operate the plant to produce gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and provide jobs for thousands of people in greater Chicagoland and much of the Midwest for decades to come.”

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