By Selam Gebrekidan
NEW YORK, July 31 (Reuters) - BP Plc plans to bring the largest of three crude distillation units at its Whiting, Indiana, refinery offline in the fourth quarter as part of a $4 billion upgrade project at the refinery, the company said in its second-quarter earnings conference call on Tuesday.
The upgrade project, which will enable the refinery to process more Canadian heavy crude, will be completed in the second half of 2013, it said. An earlier schedule eyed a mid-2013 start.
The project will reconfigure the largest crude distillation unit (12 pipestill) at the refinery and a new delayed coker, the second largest in the world with about 102,000 barrels per day of throughput, according to the company website.
A gasoil hydrotreater is also in the works along with enhancements of the existing sulfur recovery capacity at the Indiana plant.
Last summer, BP pushed back the start date of the crude distillation unit to October from August but said the delay will not affect the completion of the entire project.
A fire hit the coker at the 337,000 bpd refinery last week, and sources close to refinery operations say maintenance work can take up to four weeks.
BP’s project is one of three undertaken by refiners in the Midwest. Last November, ConocoPhillips completed a $3.8 billion coker and refinery expansion at its joint-venture 328,000-bpd refinery in Wood River, Illinois, which increased clean-fuel output by 50,000 bpd.
Marathon Petroleum Corp said on Tuesday the $2.2 billion upgrade of its 106,000-bpd refinery in Detroit, Michigan, will be completed by the third quarter. The new units will be fully online by year-end, following a 70-day turnaround.