Cherry Point refinery back to capacity

Published on Wed, May 30, 2012 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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After months of repair work and thousands of extra workers, the BP Cherry Point Refinery just south of Birch Bay is back to running at full capacity.

The scheduled maintenance work at the refinery is complete, and the facility has currently worked its way through start-up mode, BP Cherry Point spokesperson Mike Abendhoff said. The process started about a week ago, and Abendhoff said the refinery was producing fuel at full capacity effective May 30.

“We are producing all of our products,” Abendhoff said.

Abendhoff said the crude diesel unit damaged in the February 17 fire at the refinery is repaired and appears to operating normally. BP and state officials are still wrapping up the fire investigation, which Abendhoff said took a bit of a backseat to the start-up process over the past few weeks.

 “I expect to get something back from the [state investigators] in about a week or two,” Abendhoff said.

While the refinery shutdown has been floated as a possible cause for the recent spike in gas prices, Abendhoff said he could not predict if the refinery’s restart could offer any consumer relief at the pump. He said gas prices in western Washington are dependent on a number of factors, including refineries as far south as California, and would not necessarily be affected by the restart of one facility.

Washington state has some of the highest prices for regular unleaded gasoline in the U.S. – recently 58 cents higher than the national average. At $4.39 per gallon, regular unleaded gas prices for the Bellingham area are the highest in the state and have increased 17 cents over the last month.

The BP Cherry Point refinery employs 848 full-time workers and contract employees. The refinery can process 230,000 barrels of crude oil a day. It supplies most of the aviation fuel for airports in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver and is responsible for 20 percent of the gasoline sold in Washington.