Leaking tubes on a piece of equipment forced BP to shut down for at least a month the largest crude unit at its refinery near Chicago last weekend.
The leaking pipes, which pose a big fire hazard, forced shutdown of the refinery’s largest crude distillation unit (CDU) at BP Plc’s 413,500-barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery at Whiting, Indiana.
The leaks were in overhead piping leading to heat exchangers on the 240,000 bpd CDU called Pipestill 12, according to sources in a Reuters report who requested anonymity because the information is not yet public.
The leaks may be in piping throughout Pipestill 12, which runs crude oil from Canada’s tar sands fields in Alberta. BP was continuing inspections on Thursday to determine the extent of the leaks.
Repairs should take at least a month, sources in the report said. But until workers complete the inspections, it will not be clear how long it will take to repair damaged piping.
BP is also trying to determine if Pipestill 12’s piping is more susceptible to corrosion from the crude or other substances running through the unit.
BP continues to run the refinery at about 165,000 bpd or 40 percent of its rated capacity as two smaller CDUs remain in operation. Pipestill 12 is the centerpiece of a $4 billion refit of the refinery to run more sour crude from Alberta’s tar sands fields. The rebuilt Pipestill 12 came online in July 2013.
BP sold off refineries in Texas and California in 2013 to focus its U.S. refining operations on plants with easy access to Canadian crude. Whiting is BP’s largest U.S. refinery.
Crude distillation units do the initial refining of crude oil coming into a refinery and produce feedstocks for all other units.
The result of the CDU shutdown puts extra oil onto an already-oversupplied market and cuts the supply of gasoline to the Midwest in the middle of peak summer demand. That means heavy Canadian crude is now trading at the lowest level in a year and propelled wholesale gasoline in Chicago to the highest level since 2013.