Brewer News

Cianbro touts partners on refinery project

10.19.2007 – The 500 or so workers at Cianbro Corp.’s new Eastern Manufacturing Facility will help make history when they construct the building modules that will be used to expand a Texas refinery into the largest crude oil processing plant in North America.

And there is a possibility that the increased refinery capacity could help lower the cost of gasoline and other oil products, Mick Heim, project manager for Motiva Enterprises LLC, the refinery’s parent company, told a group gathered at Brewer City Hall on Thursday.

“This is huge,” he said. “When we’re finished with this facility, we’re going to have to import less” finished petroleum product.

“We’re going to be the largest refinery in the United States and the fifth or sixth largest in the world,” Heim said. “You’re a part of something really big.”

The partnership that owns the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery announced Sunday that the Texas plant is expanding to double its capacity.

Cianbro Corp., a Pittsfield construction company, is in the process of changing the defunct Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill site on South Main Street, which closed in 2004, into a modular manufacturing facility that is scheduled to begin work in April.

It was announced this week that Cianbro won a huge 15-month contract to build 54 building modules, or prefabricated, self-standing building skeletons, each weighing in excess of 500 tons, for the estimated $7 billion expansion project in Texas.

“This is a great day for our company, and certainly a great day for Brewer and for the state of Maine,” Peter G. Vigue, CEO and president of Cianbro Corp., told the gathering.

The undertaking to change the century-old industrial site into a manufacturing facility has taken a collaborative effort among city officials, Gov. John Baldacci, other state officials, and numerous state and federal agencies, he said, praising all for their hard work.

“As sad as it is to see the old buildings come down, we believe at the end of the day … that transformation will be a significant improvement to that area,” he said.

The Eastern Manufacturing Facility is one of four that will produce building modules for the Texas refinery project.

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Motiva officials began looking at building modules in other areas of the country, and Maine was not on top of the list, Heim said.

That was the case until officials with Bechtel Corp. and Jacobs Engineering Group, the joint venture hired to manage the expansion, met with Vigue.

The story of the meeting “kind of goes around the elbow and it’s kind of interesting,” Ralph Hanberry, modular fabrication team manager for Bechtel and Jacobs, said in a thick South Carolina accent at the Brewer gathering. Cianbro once helped his company with another project, he said.

Hanberry said there are two things that kept Cianbro at the top of the list of 168 companies competing for the job.

“The people, the skills” are the major reasons, he said, “and the most important one is the passion for work and the passion for success.”

After a visit to Maine in January and numerous meetings with Vigue and other Cianbro leaders, he said, “I expect this facility here to deliver us the best product we’re going to get on this project.”

Even after Cianbro kept topping the list of possible companies, it still was tough convincing higher-ups, Heim said. He commonly was asked, “We’re going to ship stuff from where down to Texas?”

The other module manufacturing facilities are in Corpus Christi, Texas, Charleston, N.C., and Tampico, Mexico.

“There are a number of people in a number of comminutes helping us,” Heim said. “We’re very happy Brewer is one of them.”

For Brewer officials, who watched their paper mill — once the city’s largest employer — make cutbacks after cutbacks and then close altogether, the returning well-paying jobs are the news.

“We’re going to bring people back to work and that’s what matters,” Deputy Mayor Gail Kelly said.

She then turned to Hanberry and Heim and said: “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving us this opportunity.”

Hanberry, Heim and Vigue were given keys to the city at the end of the gathering. Hanberry and Heim returned the gesture by giving glass vases to the city, Jack Cashman, senior economic adviser to Baldacci, and Vigue.

A copyright story from the Bangor Daily News, Friday, October 19, 2007.