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BP Whiting making progress on resuming normal operations

More than a week after an electrical fire knocked out power at BP Whiting Refinery, the facility is close to resuming normal operations, the company said Friday, after its electrical utilities were restored and its boilers went back online.

BP spokesperson Christina Audisho said that repairs have been completed and the company is working “round the clock to bring the plant to normal operations,” in an emailed statement. The refinery’s five boilers are back online and steam has been restored to the refinery, Audisho confirmed.

An Aug. 24 electrical fire shut down operations at the plant, which caused four Midwestern governors to successfully petition the Environmental Protection Agency to lift a federal rule for fuel sales “to minimize or prevent disruption of an adequate supply of gasoline to consumers.”

There were no injuries and no known impacts outside the refinery, Audisho said last week.

The emergency waiver was granted Aug. 27 for Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said, and it lifts a Clear Air Act requirement that lower-volatility gasoline be sold in the states during summer months to limit ozone pollution. It remains in effect until Sept. 15, the EPA said.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office said the refinery provides about 20% to 25% of the gasoline, jet fuel and diesel used by Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois.

The shutdown initially caused fuel prices to jump in the Chicago area, but the prices have leveled off this week. Lake County is reporting an average of $4.196 per gallon for unleaded gasoline, according to AAA.

BP has been in contact with local, state, and federal agencies of the progress of restoration, Audisho said earlier this week, and is working with them on steps to help ease supply constraints.

IDEM spokesperson Barry Sneed confirmed in an email that there were no releases to groundwater or soil. As the fire was electrical in nature, water was sparsely used, he wrote. Sneed said the area where the fire occurred collects any stormwater for treatment at the waste water treatment plant, and no issues have been observed. He said that IDEM is keeping an eye on the situation as a precautionary measure.

Sneed said that IDEM will be reviewing the situation to determine whether there were deviations of BP’s air permit requirements.

A large plume of smoke was visible from Hammond’s Lost Marsh Golf Club, according to a photo on social media.

The Whiting Refinery can process up to 435,000 barrels of crude oil per day and it is the sixth-biggest refinery by capacity in the United States and the BP’s largest in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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