Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

BP maybe not going to pollute Lake Michigan? Refinery on Hold...

Pollution roadblock may derail BP refinery of oilsands crude
Oil giant unable to strip out enough ammonia from wastewater
Joe Carroll, Bloomberg News //Thursday, August 23

BP Plc hasn't found a way to reduce water pollution that threatens to scuttle a $3.8 billion Indiana refinery expansion, the second-costliest project of its kind in the U.S.

BP said efforts to find new treatment methods that would strip ammonia from wastewater have been unsuccessful. The company wants to triple the amount of Alberta crude the plant, located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan in Whiting, can process and boost gasoline output 15 per cent.

The company, based in London, has been under fire from legislators and environmental activists for the past month after winning permission to boost ammonia discharges into the lake by 54 per cent. BP said it needs the higher limit because processing crude from the oilsands creates twice as much ammonia as the types of oil currently refined at the plant.

"It's not at all clear that there's anything available that we can use to make it all go away," Dan Zajkowski, refinery manager, said Wednesday during a legislative hearing in Indianapolis. "If there was, we would have put that in the permit process right away."

The expansion plan has been criticized by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and tens of thousands of residents of states bordering the lake who signed anti-BP petitions.

For BP, it's the latest in a series of public-relations disasters in the past three years that include a Texas refinery blast that killed 15 people and pipeline leaks that temporarily shut output at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the biggest U.S. oilfield.

Zajkowski said technological limitations, rather than costs, are the reason BP can't cut ammonia discharges when the plant begins processing more Alberta crude in 2011. The expansion plan includes a $150-million upgrade of the units that filter wastewater before it's pumped into the lake from tubes 1,067 metres from shore, he said.

Indiana and federal regulators said the ammonia increase poses no threat to the lake, the source of drinking water for 10 million people.

Even at the maximum limit allowed under the permit, the refinery won't be dumping enough ammonia to harm salmon, the lake species most sensitive to the compound, Thomas Easterly, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said during Wednesday's hearing.

BP's permit, which took effect Aug. 1 and expires in 2012, imposes stricter limits than ConocoPhillips will have to follow when it expands its Wood River, Illinois, plant near St. Louis, Easterly said.

ConocoPhillips, which is also expanding to process more Canadian crude, will be allowed to dump 31/2 kilos of ammonia for every 1,000 barrels of daily oil-refining capacity, 45 per cent more than BP, Easterly said. Houston-based ConocoPhillips plans to spend $3.9 billion on Wood River, the costliest U.S. refinery expansion.

Easterly, a former environmental manager for NiSource Inc. and Bethlehem Steel Corp., said he doubts there is any technology available to strip all of the ammonia from refinery wastewater.

"If you could overcome the laws of science, you'd like nothing to be in the discharge" that flows into Lake Michigan, Easterly said.

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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