HOUSTON (Reuters) - BP Plc has finished the commissioning of all new major units associated with a $4 billion upgrade of the company's Indiana refinery to sharply increase its ability to process cheap Canadian heavy crude, the company said on Wednesday.
The November startup of a new 102,000 barrels-per-day coking unit at the 405,000 bpd refinery in Whiting, Indiana - the largest in the U.S. Midwest - was the last major step in unlocking the revamped refinery's potential, Iain Conn, chief executive of BP's global refining unit, said in a statement.
This week operators of the refinery were preparing the coking unit for regular production, sources familiar with the plant's operations told Reuters.
Conn said the refinery is working through post-startup troubleshooting and expects to be ready to begin ramping up Canadian crude processing from year-end 2013 through the first quarter of 2014.
The upgrade will increase its Canadian crude processing capacity to 350,000 bpd from 85,000 bpd, though the plant's overall capacity will remain the same.
The upgrade also included a new 250,000 bpd crude distillation unit, a new 105,000 bpd gasoil hydrotreater and other associated units.
Western Canadian Select crude trades at a sharp discount to West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude futures benchmark, which in turn is cheaper than London's Brent.
(Reporting by Kristen Hays; Editing by Bernadette Baum)