Local 374 readies for $3.8B refinery job

BP’s Whiting, Ind., refinery will be modernized to accept more Canadian crude. Photo courtesy of BP

Project will be biggest private investment in Indiana history

AFTER YEARS of planning, engineering, and permitting, a $3.8 billion refinery modernization and expansion project is gearing up along Lake Michigan in Whiting, Ind. — and Local 374 (Hammond, Ind.) will be part of it.

The Whiting facility, owned by British Petroleum (BP), is the largest refinery in the Midwest and the fourth largest in the United States. The massive, multi-year project will allow the refinery to process additional heavy crude oil from Canada.

“It’s a go!” L-374 BM-ST Paul Maday said recently. “All the permits are in, and BP’s headquarters in Great Britain has released the funds.”

Maday said the work will involve a lot of new technology to process the Canadian heavy crude and expand overall capacity. The project, which will be managed by Fluor, will include a new coker, crude distillation unit, and gas oil hydrotreater as well as new sulfur recovery facilities. Other work will include modernizing the refinery’s water treatment facilities and additional environmental improvements.

L-374 has performed outage work at the Whiting facility for years, Maday noted, but the capital improvements will require a substantial Boilermaker workforce beyond the usual maintenance jobs. “We’re looking at three-to-four years on the expansion project, with the possibility of additional capital improvements down the road,” he said.

About 400 skilled craftsmen (from various trades) are on the project now, according to BP, and the company anticipates several thousand before 2010. Maday said he expects to have 400-500 Boilermakers at the refinery, counting outage crews and those working on the capital project.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “We’ve been watching this project for years now. The boost this is going to give to the local economy and the building trades is incredible.”

Boilermakers work on supply side, too

THE WHITING REFINERY modernization will enable the plant to process much more Canadian heavy crude.

The modernization project will enable the plant to process much more Canadian heavy crude.

An enormous amount of crude comes from the tar sands region of Alberta, where Boilermakers from Local 146 (Edmonton) work. Members there build and maintain facilities to extract heavy crude from a mixture of clay, sand, and water, then convert it into synthetic crude (syncrude). Syncrude can be piped long distances to refineries in the United States, such as the one at Whiting.

“We’re going to be getting oil from friendlies,” Maday observed, referring to Canada. “That’s good for all of North America.”

The project will increase the refinery’s production of gasoline by 1.7 million gallons a day.