PORTLAND – In the cover of darkness, massive 9,000 ton blocks of metal are making their way from Portland to their home at the new ExxonMobil-Sabic plant in Gregory.
These massive modules come from all the way across the globe and then travel 1.5 miles per hour on U.S. Highway 181 to get to their destination.
While traveling through the county doesn’t affect residents due to the fact that they are moved at midnight most times, they are changing the landscape as well as employees’ minds on where they call home.
“A large shipment will take as long as two months to get here and these ships are very large,” Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Senior Project Manager Joe Carey said. “We’ve had 15 ships come to our dock in Portland already and in total, we’re going to deliver over 400 pieces of equipment, and modules.
“To date we’ve delivered over 300, so we’re about 75 percent complete on the deliveries. Now what we haven’t done is delivered the really big modules yet.”
So far Carey said that there will be three big boilers and 20 modules being delivered and are about 25 percent complete on delivering those.
The delivery process goes like this: When the modules dock in Portland the workers begin to cut off the support steel because most of the large vessels are coming across the Pacific or Atlantic oceans and sustain some significant rough seas. The ships are designed or modified to support the 9,000 ton modules and actually design the structure in the hull the of ship before it’s welded onto the ship.
When it arrives at the Portland dock, the first thing they do is cut off all of what they call shipping steel and then roll what are called SPMT’s (Self Propelled Modular Transport), essentially boxes with wheels on the bottom, and roll them under the modules.
“There’s a guy with a control pack and a joystick and he looks like he’s having fun,” Carey laughed. “It rests around his neck and he can turn it any way he wants.”
From there the modules travel a little over a mile up U.S. Highway 181 where they will be staged for about a day to make sure they are ready to cross the road.
“We always notify the public well in advance of when we’re going to do road crossings, and our partners at TxDOT, have been great,” Carey added. “They’ve been extremely helpful, and are very talented at what they do which has enabled us to make all of our highway crossings in less than an hour.
Carey said they still have 17 more big ones to go with the most massive ones still to come. The largest he said will be about 300 feet long by 140 feet wide and can be as tall as 250 feet, nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty.
He added that residents should also be seeing extremely long pipe racks coming in to the area soon as well as large drums coming from Louisiana, but nothing as big as the modules. Carey said that around August up to early next year they are when “ ... the big, flashy deliveries are going to be made.”
As mentioned before, its not just about how Gulf Coast Growth Ventures and ExxonMobil-Sabic are changing the landscape of Gregory-Portland, it’s also about how the community is changing the employees.
“We really appreciate everything that people are doing to support us,” Carey said. “We’re very happy to be here and I can tell you that as a project person, we like it here.
“You guys have a great great community here and there’s a lot of people that are asking how they can stay on with the plant afterwards. My family and I moved here and we love it here and it’s been great and we really think that you guys have a nice little place to live down here.
“You might have more neighbors before this is all over,” he said with a laugh.