March 4, 2014 / 6:00 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-BP to ramp up Whiting heavy crude processing sharply

LONDON, March 4 (Reuters) - Oil major BP said on Tuesday its Whiting, Indiana, refinery will sharply increase processing of heavy crude grades within months to allow the company to it boost cash flow generation.

The company told an investor presentation in London that the refinery, which is currently processing 350,000 barrels per day (bpd), would ramp up processing of heavy crudes to 280,000 bpd in the next few months from the current 160,000 bpd.

The refinery has a rated capacity of 405,000 bpd.

BP said its target was to sustain heavy crude processing at 80 percent of capacity versus the previous 20 percent. That should allow it to generate up to $1 billion of additional cash flow post-tax, depending on market conditions, the company said.

Sharp price differences for various crude oil grades, driven by congestion in the U.S. delivery infrastructure, could persist for several years, allowing BP to continue to benefit from that market trend, head of downstream division, Iain Conn, told the conference.

BP plans no major fresh turnarounds for its U.S. Whiting refinery any time soon, Conn told the conference in London.

BP began the planned overhaul of a 65,000-bpd gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at the Whiting refinery on Feb. 24, Reuters reported last week.

Unit 600 was shut down the previous weekend in preparation for the work and BP had been planning the overhaul of the unit for more than a year. The overhaul is expected to take at least six weeks.

The Whiting refinery's 110,000-bpd 500 unit is expected to remain in operation while the work on the smaller of the two FCCUs is under way.

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