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Cianbro Ships First Four of 53 Oil Refinery Modules to Texas

Wed April 29, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

On a cold late-March morning hundreds of citizens lined the Penobscot River from Brewer to the lighthouse in Stockton Springs to the river’s end, where it meets the Gulf of Maine.

They had heralded their arrival with e-mails to the company that had made this day possible, such as this one from a woman who asked, “Would you know what time the Cianbro Barge will be making its way down the Penobscot? We are hosting a Barge viewing party at our home (between buoy 26 and 28) and want to be sure to give our guests plenty of time to get here! Any other info would be much appreciated.”

Other residents put up homemade signs thanking the company for bringing hundreds of new jobs to Maine, Others were just happy to see commerce returning to the Penobscot River, which was once a major commercial transportation corridor in the golden days of lumbering and shipbuilding in the 19th century.

Some, undoubtedly, were interested in seeing the spectacle of so large a vessel and cargo heading downriver.

“The news here in Maine has been filled with sad stories over the past few years of paper mills closing, and hundreds of workers being laid off,” said Alan Grover, public relations and corporate communications manager of Cianbro. “The Cianbro development and barge shipment gives Maine people hope. That’s a big reason why the people were lining the river.”

Giant Cargo, Big Hopes

On March 26, Cianbro shipped the first of four massive oil refinery modules by barge to the Motiva Refinery Expansion Project in Port Arthur, Texas.

Scores of Maine citizens, from youngsters to mill workers to seniors, lined the banks of the Penobscot, taking photos and videos, waving, standing beside homemade “bon voyage” signs, and even setting off fire hoses in salute.

Some school children sang the National Anthem as the tug and barge with its giant cargo traveled downriver, passed under the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge, and made its way out into the Gulf of Maine.

The huge, geometrically complex modular units are the first four of more than four dozen units that Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility, located in Brewer, Maine, is contracted to complete for the Motiva Enterprises LLC Port Arthur Refinery Expansion Project. Motiva is a joint venture owned by affiliates of Shell and Saudi Aramco.

700 Tons Each, 2,500 Miles

The modules weigh up to 700 tons (635 t) each and average 40-ft. by 50-ft. by 120-ft. (12.2 by 15.4 by 36.6 m) in size, although the modules loaded onto the barge for this first shipment ranged from between 300 to 600 tons (272 to 544 t). Total tonnage of the cargo was 1,500 tons (1,361 t) this first voyage.

Crews at Cianbro’s Brewer site used a heavy-duty, 224-wheeled platform to move the modules onto a specialized, 354-ft. by 94-ft. (107.9 by 28.6 m), ocean going barge, the Columbia Boston.

The Emma Foss, a 100-ft. (30.5 m) sea-going tug operated by Foss Maritime, is hauling the loaded barge approximately 2,500 mi. (4,023 km), from Cianbro’s bulkhead on the Penobscot to the Gulf of Mexico. The trip from Maine to Texas was estimated to take 15 to 20 days depending on weather.

Cianbro is the first of four modular yards in the United States and Mexico to deliver modules to the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery Expansion Project.

Motiva’s entire project will create a 325,000 barrel-per-day (b/d) capacity expansion at the Port Arthur refinery, increasing its crude oil throughput capacity to 600,000 b/d. The expansion will make the refinery the largest in the United States, and among the top 10 in the world. The project is equivalent to building a major new refinery and is expected to go online in the first quarter of 2012. The last new refinery in the United States was built more than 30 years ago.

Between 500 and 700 people have been working on the modules since May 2008. Now that the first four have departed, new modules will spring up in their place. A total of 53 will be built in Brewer in all, and they will have a long way to go once they are fully formed. Eventually, they will join 258 other modules that are under construction in three other yards in the United States and Mexico. Their final destination in Texas is the site of the venerable Motiva petroleum refinery, which is undergoing a major expansion after a century of dependable production dating back to 1901.

A Maine Vision — Exporting

Knowledge, Skill

Cianbro recently revitalized a former paper mill site to create its new Eastern Manufacturing Facility to fabricate and assemble modular industrial structures. This modular facility is the vision of Peter Vigue, president, CEO and chairman of the Cianbro Companies, and enables companies around the world to employ Maine’s skilled workforce in the construction of new industrial plants. It also allows Maine workers to live at home while exporting their knowledge and skill.

Cianbro’s module assembly contract for the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery Expansion Project is its first major job for the Eastern Manufacturing Facility. The task creates approximately 500 local, quality jobs and contributes significantly to Maine’s economy.

These new jobs require the talents of highly skilled welders, pipe fitters, and millwrights, among other top craftspeople and engineers. To secure the large, specialized workforce needed to build the modules, Cianbro invested more than $5 million in a unique, on-the-job training and mentoring program. Cianbro officials believe the investment has paid off handsomely.

“The experts claimed it could not be done within the short time-frame that we had,” said Cianbro’s Peter Vigue. “But it turns out more than 250 Mainers took us up on our offer of paid training and a good job once they learned the skills. And now they’ve proven what their minds and hands can build, as they work alongside our veteran team members here at the facility.”

Bob Pease, Motiva president and CEO, added, “The investment in the Port Arthur refinery is part of Motiva’s strategic positioning for the long haul and will help meet energy demands that are expected to increase in the coming decades. Cianbro and its workforce can take great pride in knowing they are contributing to America’s long term energy security.”

Official Send-Off

On March 26, Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci joined federal, state, regional and local officials, along with Motiva representatives and Cianbro’s Vigue to celebrate the send-off of these first modules for their voyage to Texas.

“A lot has changed here since Eastern Fine Paper closed in 2004,” Baldacci said. “This community didn’t give up and they didn’t take it lying down. Now, we are here to celebrate Cianbro’s belief in this facility, this area, and the workers who are here with us today. Maine workers are known for their quality, pride and craftsmanship and are respected around the world because of it. This celebration today is a celebration for this work force.”

The governor also thanked Cianbro President and CEO Vigue for his vision for the former Eastern Fine Paper facility.

“This is truly amazing,” the governor said. “This is a site where an old paper mill was going bankrupt. It was a site where a lot of people thought that the door had finally shut and there were no more opportunities here. But to Pete Vigue’s credit, he was never willing to take ’No’ for an answer, his drive to always try and find an opportunity and never give up, it’s that kind of spirit and leadership that inspires people and makes good things happen.”

To mark the historic occasion and commemorate the creation of hundreds of jobs at a time when many American manufacturing firms are downsizing, Cianbro welders and fabricators performed the final welds to secure the modules on their ocean going journey to market. CEG

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