Commissioned in 1890 by Standard Oil Co. of Indiana (later Amoco), the Whiting Refinery is located in the northwest Indiana city of Whiting and offers easy access to the Chicago market and Lake Michigan.
Offering kerosene as its primary product in its early years, the refinery would become a major producer of gasoline starting in the early 20th century as the number of automobiles on the road dramatically increased. An important invention by a Whiting chemist, the Burton distillation unit, helped the refining industry to meet this growing need for gasoline. The device effects the thermal cracking process, which increases the yield of gasoline from crude oil. The process heats petroleum molecules until they "crack." Applying pressure to the resulting petroleum streams separates them into various products.
Whiting would continue to be a particularly prominent facility in the U.S. refining industry over subsequent decades. By the time BP acquired Amoco in 1998, Whiting was processing approximately 400,000 b/d of crude oil. It is the largest refinery in the Midwest region, the largest inland refinery in the U.S., and the third-largest refinery in the country.
BP Whiting comprises the following process units: alkylation, catalytic cracking, catalytic reforming, desulfurization, hydrogen, isomerization, thermal cracking/delayed coking, and vacuum distillation. It processes 410,000 b/d of crude into gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, propane, and asphalt. In fact, BP points out that the facility produces nearly 10% of all asphalt used in the U.S.
Presently, BP Whiting receives crude from three sources in roughly equal amounts: predominantly heavy crude from Canada; sweet and sour crude from the southwest U.S.; and mixed grades of foreign and offshore domestic sources. BP would like to increase its use of the Canadian crude--particularly from the Oil Sands via an Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to Illinois--from 30% to 80-90%. Before it can do so, it must equip the refinery to process the additional volume of heavy crude.
The $3.8 billion BP Whiting Modernization Project will increase the refinery's capacity to process Canadian heavy crude by 260,000 b/d and increase the facility's gasoline and diesel production by 4.7 billion gallons per year, which is approximately 15% of the current annual output. The expansion includes the licensing, design, and fabrication of sulfur recovery facilities as well as revamping several hydrotreaters.
Jacobs Engineering Group will provide the following services for the project: licensing, design, and fabrication of sulfur recovery facilities; revamp of several hydroprocessing units; and construction management. Fluor Corp. is providing program and construction management, engineering, procurement, fabrication, and construction services. Services from Foster Wheeler USA Corp. include engineering, procurement, construction management, and fabrication of 102,000-bpsd six-drum delayed coking unit and gas plant facilities. Praxair is building two new hydrogen plants, which will have 200MMSCFD total capacity.
The Whiting Refinery Modernization Project is expected to conclude in 2011.