BP spills oil again

2014-03-26 08:33

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An unknown amount of oil leaked from BP Plc's Whiting refinery in Indiana into Lake Michigan after a mechanical glitch on Monday afternoon, the company confirmed on Tuesday.

The discharge had stopped, the leak was contained, and no injuries were reported, the London-based company said in a statement on Tuesday.

As crews worked on the cleanup, the effect on Lake Michigan were not immediately clear. About 60% of the lake is covered in ice, according to the national oceanic and atmospheric administration.

BP laid down boom on the water to keep the leak from spreading and said the oil was confined to a cove between the refinery's waste-water treatment plant and a steel mill.

The US environmental protection agency, the coast guard and state regulators were at the scene.

Oil spills are not uncommon in the United States, where drilling is at an all-time high and energy production is on the rise. Still, Monday's spill will probably spur more environmental opposition to the Whiting refinery, which has been under local scrutiny for releasing pollutants into Lake Michigan.

Pushing the oil

The spill may also be another blow to BP, whose reputation was tarnished by the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. That was the worst offshore spill in US history, spewing millions of barrels of oil into the ocean.

Only this month was BP allowed to bid again on new federal drilling leases after a two-year government ban was lifted.

On Tuesday, winds over Lake Michigan were pushing the oil toward the shore, while cold temperatures were causing it to harden into a waxy consistency, making it easier to collect, BP spokesperson Scott Dean said.

Dean declined to say how much oil was released.

The largest crude distillation unit at the 405 000-barrel-per-day refinery was operating normally again on Tuesday after a malfunction led to the leak, Dean said.

The 260 000-bpd crude distillation unit, called Pipestill 12, was the centrepiece of a $4bn refit of the Whiting refinery completed late last year to run large amounts of oil from Canada's tar sands fields in Alberta.

A crude distillation unit does the initial refining of crude oil coming into a refinery and provides feedstock for all other units at the plant.

The refinery has been increasing the amount of Canadian crude oil running through Pipestill 12 during the first quarter of this year.

Environmental groups opposed the BP upgrade, saying use of the Canadian crude would increase pollution from the refinery into Lake Michigan.

The Whiting refinery is the primary focus of BP's US refining strategy to use only plants in the northern United States that have in easy access to Canadian crude oil. BP sold plants in Texas and California last year as part of the strategy.
Read more on:    bp  |  us  |  energy  |  environment  |  pollution

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