BP’s Whiting refinery — a sprawling, 1,400-acre complex on the Lake Michigan shoreline — can produce enough gasoline each day to support the average daily fuel needs of more than 7 million cars. Whiting is the largest refinery in the Midwest — as well as BP’s largest refinery in the world — and it makes enormous contributions to the region’s transportation network.
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. Located about 17 miles southeast of downtown Chicago, Whiting is at the intersection of pipelines and railroads that carry its products to Midwest destinations.
BP stores many of these products at its Whiting terminal before moving them across the region. Nearly three times the size of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Whiting Refinery produces about 10 million gallons of gasoline and 1.7 million gallons of jet fuel each day, and it was one of the first U.S. facilities to refine low-sulfur gas and ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel. Whiting also produces around 5 percent of all asphalt in the United States.
In 2013, BP finished a massive modernization project at the refinery that amounted to the biggest private investment in Indiana’s history. The upgrades have allowed Whiting to process growing supplies of North American crude oil — up to 430,000 barrels a day — including heavy grades from Canada.
More recently, Whiting completed a $180 million flare gas recovery project. This new unit allows the site to recover, and use as fuel for refining processes, certain gases that would normally be released, including carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
The refinery also has built a $235 million treatment unit that removes oil and solids from its waste water, thereby reducing emissions even further.
In 2017, Whiting began constructing a $300 million naphtha hydrotreating unit that will significantly reduce the amount of sulphur in its fuel and help it meet federal fuel-quality standards.
The Whiting team uses innovative technologies, not only to protect the environment and boost efficiency, but also to improve safety. For example, to inspect tall gas combustion devices, the refinery has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles — or “drones” — 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 a number of 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.