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IDEM to investigate explosion, fire at BP

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: August 29, 2014 2:03AM



An explosion in a BP Whiting refinery process unit Wednesday caused it to exceed its allowable level of sulphur dioxide emissions.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management will investigating the incident.

An explosion and fire Wednesday night produced a booming sound and shook houses in the community and beyond, and officials said there were no serious injuries.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman Dan Goldblatt said BP contacted the agency around 4 a.m. Thursday about more than 500 pounds of sulfur dioxide being released due to the incident. BP’s air quality permit with IDEM allows the plant to release up to 500 pounds of sulfur dioxide.

Goldblatt said sulfur dioxide is a natural byproduct of burning hydrocarbons — whether from car exhaust or a refinery fire. Goldblatt said IDEM will write a report on the incident to see how much was released.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was not called to the scene to investigate.

The explosion occurred in a compressor on the north end of the refinery, Whiting Fire Chief Gus Danielides said. He said the fire station and many Whiting residents reported their windows rattled, but there were no injuries reported from city residents. The department contacted BP to see if the company needed assistance, but BP said its in-house fire department was handling the blaze.

The fire was extinguished by 10:55 p.m. Whiting shut down Indianapolis Boulevard from Schrage Avenue to 129th Street while the fire was active, Danielides said.

Ambulances were on the scene, but only one refinery employee was taken to the hospital as a precaution. The employee was later released, BP said.

The company said its refinery operations were minimally impacted as a result of the incident.

The incident came on the 59th anniversary of one of Northwest Indiana’s worst industrial disasters. On Aug. 27, 1955, a series of explosions ripped apart the Standard Oil Refinery’s 250-foot tall fluid hydroformer unit 700 in Whiting, killing two people and leaving fires raging for days.



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