BP‘s Whiting Refinery in the US shut down and evacuated employees due to a power outage on Thursday.

According to the city of Whiting, the bp Whiting refinery in Indiana state flared excess gases due to operational issues caused by a power outage at the plant.

Situated along Lake Michigan, approximately 15 miles (24km) south-east of Chicago, the roads around the refinery remain closed. 

“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,” the city of Whiting said in a statement.

BP and Lake County Hazmat have continuously monitored air quality at various points around the refinery since the incident occurred. The atmospheric readings indicated no danger to the public.

Amid the refinery incident, gasoline and diesel prices surged in the region at noon on Thursday due to fears of tighter fuel supplies. Reuters reported that Canadian crude prices also dropped due to concerns about reduced demand. 

On Thursday afternoon, bp began removing hydrocarbons from some of its units by injecting nitrogen, while the remaining units continued to burn off the hydrocarbons through the refinery safety flare system, sources who are familiar with the matter said, as reported by Reuters.

When there is a shutdown, operators use flaring to burn off volatile hydrocarbons that cannot be processed under normal circumstances. These hydrocarbons can cause a fire or explosion if not burned off.

Steven Spebar, Mayor of Whiting, said: “Whatever they had as backup was not sufficient or was shut off when the power went out.

“The flare stack flames have increased in size and caused smoke. That is what they are supposed to do,” Spebar added.