The first four of an estimated 350 modules that eventually will form the insides of the Motiva Enterprises refinery expansion began moving out of the Port of Port Arthur on Wednesday.
The port is an essential part of Motiva's $7.5 billion expansion project that will take it to 600,000 barrels per day of refined product, almost double its present size.
"The project's economic impact on the local area economy and the port is estimated to be in excess of $50 million over the life of the project," said Mark Underhill, the port board's chairman in an emailed statement.
For Danny Stafford, business agent for a longshoremen's union working at the port, it means full employment for his group.
"We've been working this project since October," Stafford said. "Since December, it's been three or four vessels per week."
Stafford leads the Local No. 1924 of the International Longshoreman's Association. His group is the clerks and checkers union. They check incoming cargo for quality to ensure it is undamaged, and also for the correct quantity.
There are at least 40 people in Local No. 1924. Another 70 or 80 in Local No. 25, known as the deep sea group, unload cargo from the vessels.
"Right now is a good time for us," said Stafford, 48, who has worked for the union for 25 years. "It's keeping all of our people working."
Last week, Motiva general manager Forrest Lauher told The Enterprise that as modules are delivered, the refinery's construction workforce will begin to resume its previous pace.
The refinery's owners, Shell Oil and Saudi Refining Co., completed a cost review earlier this year of the expansion and decided to extend the pace about a year. The refinery expansion should be complete by the first quarter of 2012.
That slowed down the need for workers and resulted in some layoffs by their subcontractor employers.
Lauher said there are still more than 2,000 construction workers still employed on the project.
The modules delivered Tuesday at the port are pipe racks assembled at the Cianbro Eastern Manufacturing plant in Brewer, Maine.
It's Cianbro's first major project after converting a former paper mill into the manufacturing plant.
Some of what Cianbro is building came from Fabricon International, near Smith Road and Interstate 10 in Beaumont.
"We've sent truckloads up there, and sent some up by barge," said Lonnie Arrington, Fabricon president.
He said the company has been building pressure vessels for the Motiva project since August 2007.
"It's a long lead time," he said, referring to how long it takes to plan the construction and build it to coincide with the customer's needs.
Fabricon is finishing up one more column for the project.
"And then we're done," Arrington said.
--Built by Cianbro Corp., Brewer, Maine
--First four of 53 modules to be delivered. Others will be built and delivered by yards in Corpus Christi; Tampico, Mexico; and Charleston, S.C.
--Modules weigh 700 tons each and measure 40 feet by 50 feet by 120 feet.
--The tug Emma Foss pulled the barge Columbia Boston loaded with the four refinery modules from the Penobscot River in Maine to Port Arthur, a 2,500-mile voyage.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Beaumont Enterprise, Texas. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.