Brewer News

Cianbro kicks off refinery assembly

4.24.2008 – Cianbro crews began erecting Wednesday at the Eastern Manufacturing Facility in Brewer the first of 52 construction modules that will become part of an expanding Texas oil refinery.

Cianbro workers Dan Wyman (L) and Tim Kundert (R) guide a steel and concrete beam as a crane hoists it into position at Cianbro’s Brewer module facility on Cianbro workers Dan Wyman (L) and Tim Kundert (R) guide a steel and concrete beam as a crane hoists it into position at Cianbro’s Brewer module facility.

Using a crane to hoist the 25-foot steel beams, a crew of about 10 had assembled more than 60 percent of the first module’s initial phase by midafternoon, said Tom Meunier, unit superintendent for Cianbro Corp. When complete in roughly three weeks, the module will be 30 feet wide, 120 feet long and 50 feet tall, he said.

Everything at the module site, from the large steel beams to buckets of bolts, have bar codes that identify the product and its proper location within the structure to ensure precision and a quality finished product, Steve Foster, safety manager for Cianbro, said.

“Everything we have done up and to this point was to get to this — the building,” Foster said.

New employee Chris Higgins bolts together one of the first concrete and steel beams on the first module to be produced at Cianbro’s Brewer module facility as the boiler building of former Eastern Fine Paper mill is dismantled behind Higgins. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

Cianbro, a Pittsfield-based construction company, was awarded a multimillion-dollar, 15-month contract to build the modules as part of Motiva Port Arthur Refinery’s $7 billion expansion in Texas. Once the expansion is complete, the refinery will be North America’s largest crude oil processing plant and the seventh largest in the world, Foster said.

The steel beams arrived by truck at the Brewer site during the past few weeks, Foster said. When the first modules are complete, they will be shipped by barge to Texas. Cianbro began dredging a part of the Penobscot River to make the channels deep enough to handle the barges and the heavy loads. Dredging was halted at the end of February due to permit requirements and will resume Aug. 1. The first modules erected in Brewer are expected to depart for Texas by fall, Foster said.

For months, Cianbro has worked to transform the 41-acre site, formerly home to the Eastern Fine Paper Co., into a manufacturing facility. On Monday, about 100 Cianbro and subcontracted workers milled about the site working on a variety of projects.

One crew worked exclusively on restoring and renovating a former mill building to be used by Cianbro as administrative offices, Foster said. The renovation should be completed within three weeks, he said. Demolition of the mill’s old boiler house also began on Wednesday. That work is being done by Massachusetts-based Costello Dismantling Co., Inc.

In total, Cianbro has 165 employees assigned to the module project, which the company estimates eventually will employ 450, Foster said. While many people have interviewed for jobs, some have not committed to jobs with the company because the facility was not up and running, he said.

Given today’s economy, many prospective employees do not want to leave a construction job during prime season without signs that the project will reach fruition, Meunier said. Now that steel is being erected and people can watch the progress from across the river, Meunier said he expects to see a new wave of applicants.

Thirty employees were training at the site on Wednesday, and the company has a total of 90 to 100 trainees in facilities around the state. Within a month-and-a-half to two months, Cianbro expects to bring the trainees to the Brewer site to work alongside the company veterans who have begun the assembly, Meunier said. Pipe fabrication will start by the end of May, he said.

“I believe we are putting steel up a little earlier than expected, but [we] will put up pipe a little later,” Meunier said. “By late June to July you’ll see a vast amount of activity.”

A copyright story from the Bangor Daily News, Thursday, April 24, 2008.