ECU Module Project
Brewer, Maine
Best Project and Energy/Industrial, Award of Merit

Owner: Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC
General Contractor: Cianbro
Coatings Subcontractor: Copia Specialty Contractors Inc.
Insulation Subcontractor: Northeast Insulation Services
Piping Subcontractors: Maine Piping Inc.; Sullivan and Merritt Constructors

To create seven ethane cracking units (ECUs) for a new plastic production plant in Pennsylvania, the project team constructed a total of 50 modules configured with structural steel, piping, electrical cable and control systems over an 18-month period. Quality was paramount because the modules would have to endure prolonged operation at extreme temperatures and pressures. Fulfilling that requirement was a constant challenge, particularly with outdoor work taking place during extended periods of considerably harsh winter weather. Special attention to pipe welding specifications achieved a 97% acceptance rate, while lean construction practices aided in streamlining other production aspects and adapting to owner-requested schedule changes. 

As materials for the ECU modules were sourced worldwide, the project team was also challenged to balance material deliveries, maintain organization and execute careful distribution to field crews in the module yard. Changing needs at the Pennsylvania site led to an expanded scope of activity at the module yard to maintain the project’s critical path. New tasks included installation of refractory shelving and temporary pipe supports, mastic application improvements and related field coating enhancements. 

To keep abreast with these new needs, the project team ramped up staffing, augmenting local crews and subcontractors with skilled craftspeople from as far away as Texas and the Midwest. Relocating select fabrication tasks to an off-site location optimized production staffing and workflow while also minimizing potential schedule and staging complications.

The most important project facet was safety, with more than 100 subcontractors and nearly 800 team members working simultaneously for much of the project for a total of more than 1.4-million work hours with only five recordable incidents and no lost-time injuries. ENR’s safety judge praised the project team’s effort to plan safety into the work through last minute risk assessments (LMRA) and activity plans for both routine daily work and major activities that provided workers with the knowledge to execute the work without incident. 

Other safety program elements included a safety health awareness raises excellence (SHARE) committee, which allowed team members to identify issues and eliminate unsafe conditions and work practices. A comprehensive worker wellness program included handing out fruit and other wholesome foods to promote a healthy eating regimen during team member assemblies. 

Once completed, the modules were then loaded onto barges with heavy-haul transporters and fastened in place onto load spreaders and sea-fastening systems in preparation for a nearly 40-day waterborne odyssey. After traveling down the East Coast and into the Gulf of Mexico, the modules made their way up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers before reaching their final delivery point in Pennsylvania, ready for installation and commissioning.

Back to New England’s Top Projects Meet the Moment