BREWER, Maine — The barge that will carry the first set of refinery modules from Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility down the Penobscot River to the Atlantic Ocean and their new home at a Texas refinery is expected to arrive today.
The massive 94-foot-by-354-foot barge was in Searsport on Monday and expected to arrive at the site’s dock just before 11 a.m. today, according to Alan Grover, Cianbro spokesman.
“Then we’ve got a couple of weeks to get four modules onto it,” he said. “It’s like moving the space shuttle. They’re [the modules] like 700 tons each.”
Motiva Enterprises LLC hired Pittsfield-based Cianbro Corp. to build 53 refinery modules for the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery, which is in the middle of a $7 billion expansion that will make it the largest crude oil processing plant in North America.
Workers in Brewer have more than a dozen steel refinery modules — self-standing building skeletons filled with pipes and utilities — under construction for the Texas refinery expansion. The modules are visible from South Main Street and from across the river.
Barnhart Crane & Rigging crews will use a 100-wheel transport vehicle to pick up the first four modules from where they were built, and load them onto the barge for their trip to the Gulf of Mexico.
The barge is scheduled to leave Brewer on March 26, Grover said, and will take 15 to 20 days to get to Texas. While the first module is loaded onto the barge, crews will finish the other three, he said.
“One [module] is finished,” Grover said. “They’re putting the finishing touches on [another] one. And the other ones are almost, almost done.”
Three of the first four modules are massive. They are 120 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 34 to 40 feet tall, but will have steel base transfer beams that add another 8 to 10 feet to the height making them around 50 feet tall. The fourth is a corner module and is smaller, at 54 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 34 feet tall, but will have significantly more piping and valves.
The three large modules weigh 600 to 700 tons each, Grover said.
“They get off the barge in Port Arthur [Texas], go down a ramp and then they’re bolted on” to the existing refinery, said Cheryl Brackett, Cianbro lead work pack engineer.
The pieces need to be exactly perfect to fit correctly, she said.
Grover added that the mammoth units have to be accurate to “within one-eighth of an inch.”
Cianbro chose the site of the shuttered Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill, which closed in January 2004, for its Eastern Manufacturing Facility and spent 10 months changing the abandoned mill site into a module-producing facility with 500 well-paying jobs. Work on the modules began in April of last year.
The original schedule called for the modules to be transported in November, but that date changed for several reasons, including changes in the economy and difficulty in scheduling of the large barges, company officials have said.
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.
“Cianbro’s modules are the first to be shipped for the gigantic refinery expansion, out of four yards that are building modules,” Grover said in a press release.
“It’s a huge task” coordinating the assembly, he said on Monday.
The Motiva refinery, which produces Shell Oil brand products, processes about 275,000 barrels of fuel a day and will process about 600,000 barrels a day once the expansion is complete, possibly sometime next year.