[Editor's note: Dan Sajkowski, Business Unit Leader for BP's Whiting Refinery, issued the clarification below in response to press reports about a wastewater discharge permit granted by Indiana in conjunction with BP's expansion of the Northwest Indiana facility.]
You may have seen recent news reports about wastewater discharge at BP's refinery in Whiting, Indiana. With this communication I hope to clarify issues, provide some important information, and address questions you may have.
BP's Whiting refinery produces gasoline, diesel and jet fuel for much of the Midwest US. The refinery also has about 1,700 BP employees and another 2,000 contract workers who live in the Great Lakes area. BP is planning an investment of more than $3 billion to modernize the refinery so that it continues to provide the reliable fuel supply people need well into the future.
Our modernization plans focus on America's need for energy security and diversity. Through upgrades at Whiting, BP will be able to process additional heavy crude oil from Canada, a secure, reliable and sustainable source. The refinery currently runs about 30 percent heavy Canadian crude. The reconfigured refinery will run about 90 percent. Processing the additional Canadian crude will result in changes to the refinery, some that require new environmental permits.
The refinery today operates a modern wastewater plant paired with processes that meet or exceed federal and state regulatory requirements. The facility uses the best available wastewater treatment technology used in refining. Our modernization plans include investing about $150 million to further enhance this wastewater treatment capability.
Some recent news reports stated that the refinery discharges "sludge" directly into Lake Michigan, and that it will substantially increase. That is not true. The refinery does not and will not discharge sludge into the lake. The refinery discharges only treated water into the lake. Treated wastewater is more than 99.999% water. The remainder is salt, nutrients, organics and inorganics that are not dissolved in water, and are so small they pass through fine filtration systems. All wastewater sludges are treated separately, according to state and federal requirements, and never discharged to Lake Michigan.
Reports have also focused on an increased discharge of ammonia allowed under the terms of the new permit. US federal and Indiana state regulations limit the amount of ammonia allowable in wastewater discharge. These regulations are based upon best available technology, refinery size and complexity and are designed to protect the overall water quality of Lake Michigan.
The new permit allows the refinery's average ammonia discharge to increase from 1030 lbs/day to 1584 lbs/day; however, US Environmental Protection Agency guidelines could allow as much as 3358 lbs/day -- more than double the refinery's newly permitted ammonia discharge limit. Also, it is important to remember that these permit numbers are maximum limits; on a daily average basis, actual discharges by the Whiting Refinery are substantially less. In fact, as an ISO 14001 certified site, we have reduced total suspended solids by 40 percent in just the past four years. This is one of the ways we have demonstrated our focus on continual improvement in environmental performance. Our commitment to continuous improvement will carry on as we modernize the refinery.
The refinery will install a diffuser system and create a mixing zone to ensure that any possible increase in treated water discharges does not negatively impact water quality. Mixing zones, which the US EPA allows in every state, are used to develop permit limit discharges into surface waters such as the Great Lakes. Mixing zones are not an exemption from environmental regulation and are explicitly authorized under Indiana law. The permit strictly regulates the amount of constituents in a mixing zone.
Some recent reports also indicated that BP circumvented regulatory processes to acquire a new water permit. Not true. BP worked openly and closely with the EPA, IDEM, environmental organizations and the public in the development of the permit, and all state and federal requirements were met. Every step has been done properly, in full public view and with the oversight of regulators whose guidelines ensure that aquatic and human life are protected.
Our water discharge from the Whiting refinery is within regulated limits now, and will be in the future. BP has implemented best practices for water re-use and reduction company-wide and is committed to staying on the cutting edge of technology that will help lessen the impact our operations have on the environment. BP is also committed to an open dialogue with interested stakeholders.
We will continue to seek solutions that further reduce emissions as our plans to modernize the refinery move forward. We welcome your input. Please do not hesitate to contact us with your ideas and questions.