BP Whiting oil refinery power outage could lead to higher gas prices tomorrow

ByMaher Kawash and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Friday, February 2, 2024
Whiting oil refinery power outage could drive up gas prices
A Whiting, Indiana BP oil refinery power outage lead to increased burning of excess product and flaring of stacks, and could drive up gas prices.

WHITING, Ind. (WLS) -- A power outage Thursday at the BP oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana led to increased burning and flaring through the stacks at the site.

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The extra flaring process is done to burn off excess product during a power outage, BP said.

The evacuation order was lifted just after 4 p.m. Thursday, but roads continued to be shut down around the Whiting oil refinery.

BP is expected to restore power to the facility by 10 p.m., the city of Whiting said in a release. The facility systems will gradually be restarted on Friday morning.

"Out of an abundance of caution, BP has evacuated the employees from the Glass House located on Indianapolis Boulevard and 129th Street. No further evacuation is required," the release read in part.

The evacuation order was lifted just after 4 p.m.

Roads were shut down around Indianapolis Boulevard from 129th to Schrage, and they were expected to be reopened around 10 p.m.

An increased presence of smoke in the air could be seen across the town. The city said all safety precautions are being taken.

"There was continual monitoring of air quality at multiple points around the refinery by BP and Lake County Hazmat since the incident occurred," a statement from the city read. "The testing has shown that there was no danger to the public as a result of today's incident."

People living on a street right behind the plant said they're used to this kind of stuff, but this incident was a little more worrisome as they saw large amounts of smoke and flames.

"I seen the workers evacuating, and that was my first concern obviously... public safety in the community," resident Zach Spencer said. "Definitely a little odd. Then the black smoke started to get pretty heavy."

City officials said crews had to burn additional product as a safety measure so this is a normal process out of precaution during an event like this.

Chopper 7 video showed the range of the smoke extending across the area.

"I heard the familiar rumble from the flares, then I look out my window. I say, 'what the? oh my god,'" resident Dennis Betustak. "It was just a thick wall of black smoke. I mean, never seen before like that before."

This type of incident has a wide-ranging impact across the community, specifically when it comes to gas prices.

Gas Buddy's Patrick De Haan said the refinery produces 440,000 barrels of oil per day, so this incident will likely hike gas prices starting Friday.

"I think for now gas prices could jump from 15 to 30 cents a gallon over the next couple of days," De Haan said. "This refinery produces nearly 10 million gallons of gasoline every single day, so with this refinery basically down for the count not producing, it's going to be a very swift and quick impact to the price that you pay at the pump."

There have been some other recent concerns with the BP Refinery as a leak caused a natural gas smell across the south suburbs late last month.

The state of Indiana will hold a hearing next week for the public to weigh in on BP'S application for continuing its air permit.

NIPSCO released a statement explaining their power systems are not used at the BP refinery:

"NIPSCO's electric system is not associated with today's event at the BP facility in Whiting, Ind. BP maintains its own infrastructure to support the electric needs of its facilities. NIPSCO's electric system was not interrupted during this event and is continuing to perform normally."