US House leaders press BP for answers on Whiting refinery outage

Leaders in the US House of Representatives are demanding answers from BP PLC regarding the early August unplanned and still ongoing shutdown of a major processing unit at its 413,000-b/d refinery in Whiting, Ind.

Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Fred Upton (R-Ind.) have sent a letter to BP Chief Executive Robert Dudley asking for information pertaining to the sudden closing of the refinery unit on Aug. 8, which has caused a sharp spike in gas prices throughout the upper Midwest, Walorski and Upton said in a joint release.

“Some areas of the Midwest have seen prices rise over $1/gal over a 24-hr period, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable of our constituents and resulting in large unpredicted costs in getting goods to market across the region,” the House members wrote.

In addition to noting the immediate hardship posed to constituents in their districts as a result of rising prices at the pump, Walorski and Upton expressed concern that speculators may force additional price increases amid the lack of available information regarding the sudden closure.

Upton, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Walorski, whose congressional district includes the refinery, specified an Aug. 21 deadline for Dudley to provide responses to the following inquiries:

• What is the cause of the outage, and when did it occur?

• How much gasoline production has been idled?

• How long is the outage expected to last?

• Is it possible for other refineries in the region (or other units at Whiting) to make up for the shortfall, and if not, why not?

• Does BP exert any control over the price that individual gas stations charge, and if so, what is the company doing to prevent price gouging?

• Is there any role for state and federal governments in alleviating the severity and/or duration of the price spike and in reducing the likelihood of future incidences?

The representatives further requested Dudley to provide daily updates on the status of operations until the situation is resolved.

BP shut down the largest of Whiting’s three crude distillation units on Aug. 8 for unscheduled repair work, the company said in an Aug. 12 statement.

While BP confirmed the rest of the refinery continues to operate, it did not disclose details regarding the degree of impact to the plant’s production of finished fuels.

The company said it is working to meet fuel supply obligations to customer and to safely restart the shuttered unit as soon as possible.

Contact Robert Brelsford at

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