BREWER, Maine — A day after reports of significant job growth at the Eastern Manufacturing Facility, Peter Vigue, chairman of the Pittsfield-based Cianbro Cos., said Cianbro is hiring fewer temporary workers at the site because the recent huge drop in oil demand has affected the schedule of the oil refinery expansion in Texas for which Cianbro is building modules.
“We’ll be adjusting the number of subs on site and very likely we’ll be transferring people out to other opportunities,” Vigue said Wednesday, explaining that “there are up-and-down fluxes in the number of people we have on any given project.”
Motiva Enterprises LLC hired Cianbro Corp. to build 52 refinery modules for the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery in Texas, which is in the middle of a $7 billion expansion that will make it the largest crude oil processing plant in North America.
In the past couple of months, Eastern Manufacturing Facility crews have worked on an accelerated schedule with a lot of overtime which now has been eliminated because the national demand for oil has dropped, Vigue said.
“Instead of this project being schedule-driven, it will be cost-driven now,” he said. “It all has to do with the economic [outlook]. The whole scope of this project is demand. The demand for oil has changed in the last year.”
Vigue described Motiva leaders as “prudent” and “vigilant” in their decision to keep a keen eye on the expansion’s bottom line.
Four module plants, three in the United States and one in Mexico, are building pieces for the Port Arthur expansion, which is the largest capital project ever undertaken in Texas.
The Texas refinery, which produces Shell Oil brand products, processes about 275,000 barrels of fuel a day when up and running. It will process about 600,000 barrels a day once the $7 billion expansion is complete, which is expected in 2010.
Vigue said Brewer’s employee “numbers are significantly more than what we projected early on” and added that “the concept that there is going to be massive layoffs is not valid.”
Officials had projected that the refurbished paper mill site would employ 500 skilled laborers, but the number is closer to 700, City Manager Steve Bost has said. It could not be immediately determined how many of those employees are temporary.
Barry Curry, a Bangor resident who said he has worked for Cianbro for close to three years, was one fill-in worker who was told there is no work at the Brewer site.
Curry, who had been told he and five of his co-workers would be working at Cianbro in Brewer for the next week and a half, received a message last Friday that they would be on temporary layoff.
“None of us are there,” he said.
Curry said he will be working on a Cianbro project in Unity just after the first of the year.
While temporary employee numbers are down in Brewer, Cianbro also has set up a pipe construction and coating facility in Bangor that has around 50 employees working on components for the refinery expansion project, Vigue said.
Temporary employees also should know that demand for crews at Cianbro’s parking garage project at Eastern Maine Medical Center is expected to increase significantly “right after the first of the year,” he said.
“We’ll be erecting major components of that project” and will need more people, Vigue said. “We just move people around where we need them.”
In all, Cianbro has about 30,000 transfers between job sites annually, he said.