Last load of Cianbro modules leaves Friday

Posted June 02, 2010, at 9:51 p.m.

BREWER — The last of 51 oil refinery modules created at the Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility was loaded Wednesday onto the seafaring barge that will take them to Port Arthur, Texas, marking the completion of the site’s first contract.

“It is bittersweet,” General Manager Joe Cote said Wednesday. “It’s been a long project, and it’s been a very successful project, and we have a very happy client.”

Motiva Enterprises LLC hired Cianbro to build 51 refinery modules for the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery in Texas, which is in the middle of a $7 billion expansion.

The last load, which has seven modules, is scheduled to depart from the Brewer bulkhead at 2 p.m. Friday for its 2,300-mile trip to the Gulf of Mexico, Cianbro spokesman Alan Grover said.

The refinery modules are heavy-duty industrial steel frames filled with pipes, pumps and wiring that can be as tall as six stories and weigh 700 tons. They are too big to travel by roads or rail and have to be moved by water. The trip between Brewer and Port Arthur takes about two weeks, depending on the weather, Cote said.

In addition to Cianbro’s module manufacturing plant, others contributing components to the refinery expansion are in Corpus Christi, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; and Tampico, Mexico.

Motiva produces Shell Oil brand products, and when their expansion is complete, the facility’s capacity will double.

Cianbro employees loaded the last modules over the last week, and work crews have spent much of the last several days welding supports into place, Cote said.

“We have about 100 people [working] right now, but by Friday we’ll be down to about 50,” he said.

Those employees will remain at the site, preparing it for the next project, Cote said.

The Brewer plant employed about 500 at its peak, but as the contract wound down, the number decreased. Employees were told at the end of February that many would be laid off or transferred if company officials were unable to find another project.

To keep as many of the Cianbro workers employed, several were offered employment opportunities at other company work sites, some in Maine and others at sites out of state.

“Better than 80 percent” have been offered different Cianbro jobs, Cote said. “We’ve been very fortunate in that regard. We’ve had a lot of work that have come about in Maine in the paper mills and some new bridge work” in the region and as far away as Galveston, Texas.

There is no future contract in hand, but there are several interested parties, including one from Canada that recently sent a due diligence team to the South Brewer site, Cote said.

“They left here very satisfied,” he said. “We demonstrated to them the capacity of the yard. They were quite impressed … we expect to hear from them in the next few weeks.”

To sign a new contract “would be absolutely great news,” he said. “We’ve had a great impact on the local economy” since beginning operations in mid-2008.

“There will be a little down spell, then we’ll get going again,” Cote said.

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