As part of a comprehensive effort to improve its efficiency, BP’s Whiting Refinery has launched a waste heat recovery project to generate steam from exhaust gas. This will reduce the amount of steam Whiting generates from boilers, which in turn will reduce both the amount of fuel it burns and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2017, the refinery replaced two steam-driven turbines used to pump cooling water with electric-driven turbines that require less energy to achieve the same flow. It also began constructing a $300 million naphtha hydrotreating unit that will significantly reduce the amount of sulfur in its fuel, allowing it to make cleaner products and meet federal standards.
Located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in northwest Indiana, 17 miles southeast of downtown Chicago, Whiting is BP’s largest refinery anywhere in the world. It produces around 10 million gallons of gasoline, 3.5 million gallons of diesel and 1.7 million gallons of jet fuel each day, along with roughly 5 percent of all asphalt in the United States.
By way of perspective, Whiting produces enough gasoline each day to support the average daily fuel needs of more than 7 million cars.**
The facility first opened in 1889, as part of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, and for more than 125 years it has been a key anchor of the northwest Indiana economy. It’s the largest refinery in the Midwest, and it makes enormous contributions to the region’s transportation network, processing around 430,000 barrels of crude oil every day.
In 2013, Whiting completed a modernization project that amounted to the biggest private investment in Indiana state history. Since then, the refinery has made great strides in boosting plant availability, meaning it can spend more time running normal operations.
In 2016, Whiting completed a separate, $180 million flare gas recovery project. The new units recover — and use as fuel for refining — certain gases that normally would have been released as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
Also in 2016, the refinery invested $235 million to remove oil and solids from its waste water. It plans to make further wastewater technology upgrades in late 2018 and early 2019.
The Whiting team uses innovative technologies not only to protect the environment and boost efficiency, but also to improve safety. For example, the refinery has deployed drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to inspect flares, rather than have workers climb up temporary scaffolding.
“The Whiting Refinery is committed to helping build a safer, stronger, more sustainable BP,” says Refinery Manager Don Porter. “Technology is a big part of that, and we’re proud of the ways in which we’ve harnessed innovation to enhance our operations and increase our competitiveness.”
Over the years, Whiting and its employees have supported a diverse range of local and regional institutions, such as Ivy Tech Community College, Purdue University and the Lake Area United Way (LAUW).
In 2017, the LAUW gave Whiting its Volunteer of the Year award, in recognition of the fundraising work done by refinery employees.
BP also has supported local environmental initiatives, including Student Conservation Association projects at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, along with the Northwest Indiana CommuniTree program, which works with municipalities to plant trees in parks and vacant lots.
* Vendor figures for the year ended December 31, 2016.
**Calculation based on the average amount of gasoline an American passenger car uses each day.