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BP Brings Whiting Refinery Online

Zacks Equity Research

Oil major BP plc’s (BP) investors cheered the recent announcement regarding the commissioning of all major new units associated with the $4 billion Whiting modernization project. The shares nudged up 1.54% to close at $46.22 per share on the day of the announcement and continued to move up for the next four trading sessions to close at $47.59 per share on Dec 24, 2013.

BP started a new 102,000 barrels per day (bpd) coking unit in mid November. The latest start-up in the 405,000 bpd facility in Northwest Indiana was the last major step in unlocking the revamped refinery's potential.

The upgrade will significantly enhance its Canadian crude processing capacity. Although the plant’s overall capacity will remain unchanged, the crude processing capacity will increase to 350,000 bpd from 85,000 bpd. The company expects incremental operating cash flow of $1 billion per year.

Currently, the refinery is busy with post start-up troubleshooting and anticipates the gradual ramp-up of Canadian crude processing from year-end through the first quarter of 2014.

The upgrade at the BP’s largest US refinery, also included a new 250,000 bpd crude distillation unit, a new 105,000 bpd gasoil hydrotreater and other associated units.

Recently, BP has concluded a number of major investments in its other US refineries. It includes a clean-diesel upgrading project at its 234,000 bpd day Cherry Point, Washington refinery and the addition of a continuous catalytic reformer to the 160,000 bpd Toledo, Ohio, refinery (a 50:50 joint venture with partner Husky Energy Inc.).

BP has a strong pipeline of projects and expects four additional upstream ventures to commence by the end of 2013. Altogether, BP has about 50 major assignments through the decade. Eleven of these involve more than $10 billion in total cost.

BP carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks in the oil and gas sector include Harvest Natural Resources Inc. (HNR), Parker Drilling Co. (PKD) and Tesco Corp. (TESO). All these stocks hold a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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