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Explosion, fire at BP refinery in Whiting

BP's Whiting Refinery as seen from 121st Street Whiting August 27 2014 shortly after reported explosifacility. | Jim Karczewski/for Sun-Times

BP's Whiting Refinery as seen from 121st Street in Whiting on August 27, 2014 shortly after a reported explosion at the facility. | Jim Karczewski/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 29, 2014 12:19PM



WHITING, Ind. — Fire broke out about 9 p.m. Wednesday after an explosion at the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, fire officials said.

BP America spokesman Scott Dean confirmed in a news release early Thursday that the Whiting refinery experienced “an operational incident” on a process unit on the refinery’s north end. Its in-house fire department responded, and the fire was extinguished by 10:55 p.m.

“Refinery operations were minimally impacted as a result of the incident, and the refinery continues to produce products for customers,” Dean said.

One refinery employee was taken to a local hospital as a precaution but was later released, Dean said.

Two neighbors said via social media that they heard or felt the blast about 9 p.m.

The blast was heard as far away as Highland and Griffith.

Bernie Niceswander lives on the corner of Schrage Avenue and 121st Street, just across the street from BP’s new expansion site.

“I felt what sounded like a big boom, kind of like roman candles exploding,” he said late Wednesday. “My window screens were shaking. But I didn’t see anything, except a lot of chaos, with police cars and sirens.”

Jorge Torres, who also lives near the refinery, said the explosion felt like an earthquake.

“I was here at home around 9 p.m. when we heard a big explosion and the house vibrated,” he said. “When we came out, we couldn’t see anything, but then we looked toward the refinery and we saw white smoke.”

Torres drove toward the refinery and saw everybody coming out of their houses. He said Indianapolis Boulevard was blocked for an hour.

Wednesday was the anniversary of a disastrous explosion in Whiting.

On Aug. 27, 1955, a series of explosions ripped apart the Standard Oil Refinery’s 250-foot tall fluid hydroformer unit 700 in Whiting. Only two were killed but the conflagration is considered one of the worst industrial disasters in the region’s history.



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