Oil Refinery Shut Down by Fire, Energy Emergency Declared

A major oil refinery in Indiana has been shut down after a fire broke out at the plant, triggering the federal government to declare an energy emergency across four states.

Feds declared a regional emergency affecting Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, following the “unanticipated shutdown” of the BP Whiting oil refinery.

The blaze knocked out the electrical power and cooling water systems at the Indiana refinery, causing it to shut down and undergo assessment, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said the “unanticipated shutdown of the BP Whiting refinery” has severely impacted fuel supplies in the region.

The fire has affected the supply of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel throughout the four Midwest states, the federal agencies revealed.

The declaration provides the resources to immediately transport gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel to the four states.

All four states are now facing, or are anticipated to face, shortages.

The BP Whiting refinery usually provides up to 25 percent of the fuel used by Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin collectively.

By executing the emergency declaration, motor carriers and drivers who are directly assisting the emergency in the affected states will be exempt from the federal regulation 49 CFR § 395.3 that limits property-carrying vehicles to a maximum driving time.

However, when a driver returns to normal operations after working on emergency relief efforts, they will need to take a 10-hour-break if they have been involved in 14 hours or more of emergency relief efforts.

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According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), drivers in the four states are currently facing average gas prices ranging from $3.62 in Wisconsin to $4.176 in Illinois.

Meanwhile, CBOB, a common grade of gasoline, went up 30.5 cents a gallon in the Chicago area on Thursday.

Ultra-low sulfur diesel went up by 17 cents on the same day.

BP Whiting normally refines over 400,000 barrels of oil per day.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the refinery is the sixth-biggest by capacity in the United States, and the company’s largest in the nation.

Michigan’s Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer responded to the looming crisis by issuing an executive order that declares an energy emergency.

The emergency declaration will remain in place until supply challenges related to the refinery fire are overcome, or until September 15, whichever comes first.

The move seeks to free up more gas supply and remove any hindrances to gas delivery to cut down wait times at stations, the governor said in a statement.

“I am taking action to help address Michigan’s fuel needs after a fire and power outage at a BP refinery in Indiana,” Whitmer said.

“The impacts of the outage at the Whiting facility will be widespread across our region, and I am taking proactive steps to help Michiganders get the fuel they need to drive their cars and help businesses keep their products moving.”

The declaration of an energy emergency brings about two temporary actions in the state.

The first will exempt fuel transporters from complying with the maximum weekly driving and on-duty limits.

The second “temporarily suspends certain laws and regulations to accelerate the transition to the fall fuel supply and takes advantage of existing stocks of fuel, contingent on the Environmental Protection Agency making similar changes.”

READ MORE: Four U.S. Natural Gas Facilities Destroyed in Two Weeks

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By Frank Bergman

Frank Bergman is a political/economic journalist living on the east coast. Aside from news reporting, Bergman also conducts interviews with researchers and material experts and investigates influential individuals and organizations in the sociopolitical world.

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