Monday, July 23, 2007

BP Whiting Refinery

Recently the Chicago Tribune ran an article about a BP Factory in Whiting, Indiana and misrepresented some important facts. This post is an effort to clarify some of these facts.

The Chicago Tribune article can be found here:,1,647384.story?ctrack=3&cset=true

BP's fact sheet can be found here:

There are obviously some discrepancy's between them. I will touch on three of these that touch on the impacts to our environment.

What is going into Lake Michigan from the refinery?

Chicago Tribune claims: "The massive BP oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., is planning to dump significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan, running counter to years of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes."

BP claims: "Only treated water into Lake Michigan: What is released from our refinery is treated water that is more than 99.9% water - not sludge. All sludge is treated separately, according to state and federal requirements, and never discharged into Lake Michigan."

Will the refinery be allowed to emit more pollutants into the lake?

Chicago Tribune claims: "Under BP's new state water permit, the refinery -- already one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes -- can release 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day. Ammonia promotes algae blooms that can kill fish, while sludge is full of concentrated heavy metals. The refinery will still meet federal water pollution guidelines. But federal and state officials acknowledge this marks the first time in years that a company has been allowed to dump more toxic waste into Lake Michigan."

BP claims: "Well within legal limits - A new water discharge permit allows the refinery's average ammonia discharge to increase, but at levels that will still be less than half of those that federal environmental guidelines could allow."

Local crude oil vs mid-east crude oil:

Chicago Tribune claims: "BP, which aggressively markets itself as an environmentally friendly corporation, is investing heavily in Canadian crude oil to reduce its reliance on sources in the Middle East. Extracting petroleum from the thick goop is a dirtier process than conventional methods. It also requires more energy that could significantly increase greenhouse gases linked to global warming."

BP claims: "Energy , security and diversity - BP plans to spend more than $3 billion to modernize the Whiting Refinery to process additional heavy crude oil from Canada, a secure and reliable source" They also say: "Collaborative, transparent approach - BP is working with federal, state and local elected officials, regulators, community and environmental organizations, and communities to develop comprehensive, environmentally sound plans."

As you can see, there must be trade offs in order for us to acquire energy Independence, and one of those trade offs, will be the impact to our environment. Global warming and clean water are obviously both crucial concerns, but the lifestyle we've all grown accustomed to, requires resources that we don't currently have enough of in our own backyards. Sometimes we have to sacrifice a little bit for one cause, in order to advance another. As our technology advances, hopefully the sacrifices will get smaller and smaller. If we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and still maintain federal and environmental guidelines at the refinery as is declared by BP, this time it seems as if the trade off is well worth the sacrifice for the benefits gained.