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Power outage at BP oil refinery in Whiting causes gas odor and haze in the region

Gas odor and haze a result of extra oil burning — a response to the power outage

LANSING, Ill. (February 1, 2024) – “It stinks out here!” said a pair of TF South students on their way home from school Thursday afternoon. They pulled their jackets over their noses to muffle the gas odor that spread across Lansing.

The odor originated from the BP oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Just over a week ago, residents smelled a similar odor, which a statement from BP attributed to a “leak from a storage tank at the refinery’s tank fields.”

On Thursday afternoon, BP provided The Lansing Journal with the following statement:

We are in the process of safely shutting down the refinery after a suspected power outage. We have activated our emergency response team and evacuated refinery office buildings out of an abundance of caution. Local fire departments are assisting with the evacuation by closing nearby roads. The safety of refinery staff and the community are our highest priority.

Though not addressing the odor directly — or the haze in the sky Thursday afternoon — the statement confirmed reports from other media that a power outage at the refinery had resulted in flares from refinery smokestacks.

Around 4:30 p.m. large flames still burned from at least three smokestacks at the refinery.

odor
Three points of conflagration at BP Refinery in Whiting could be seen from Cline Avenue, just south of the refinery late on Thursday afternoon. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

According to a CBS News report, the City of Whiting said such flares were intentional, designed to burn extra oil as a response to the power failure.

Effect on residents – gas odor and haze

The evacuation directly affected businesses and residents near the refinery. The haze, smoke, and odor affected residents throughout the larger region.

Sunset tried to break through the smoke and haze settling over Hammond, as seen from Indiana Harbor Drive around 4:45 p.m., following a power outage at BP Refinery in Whiting. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Some in the Lansing community took to Facebook to discuss the odor, with many saying they smelled it inside their house. Others said they were suffering from eye irritation and headaches. One resident described her dogs as “gagging” after being outside.

“Due to today’s activity at the BP refinery in Whiting, Lansing community members are again reporting an unusual odor. At this time, we have no indication that the smell is anything other than a nuisance,” said the Village of Lansing in an alert sent to residents Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday night, multiple weather reporting services listed Lansing’s air quality index in the 50–60 range, which some of the services described as “moderate,” and one described as “poor.”

A Northwest Indiana Times article about the situation said the refinery’s outage could cause a rise in gas prices in the region.

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Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I would like to see the actual BP AIR QUALITY TESTS COMPARED TO EPA TESTS to make sure the petroleum we are inhaling won’t create health risks in the future.

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