BREWER (AP )- At a time when many employers are slowing production and cutting jobs, Cianbro Corp.’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility is adding workers as it builds modules for a massive oil refinery expansion in Texas.

“They are at or above 700 people,” City Manager Steve Bost said. “They are working two shifts and weekends. The pace has really accelerated.”

Modules for refinery

Pittsfield-based Cianbro was hired to build 52 modules for the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery, which is in the midst of a $7 billion expansion. The modules are heavy-duty industrial steel frames filled with pipe, pumps and electronics.

The Cianbro plant was built at the site of the Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill, which closed in January 2004. Work on the modules began in April and the first module is scheduled to leave by barge in about a month.

Two other module plants in the United States and another in Mexico are constructing pieces for the Port Arthur expansion, described as the largest capital project ever undertaken in Texas.

275,000 barrels a day

The refinery, which turns out products under the Shell Oil brand, has a capacity of 275,000 barrels of fuel a day. That is projected to increase to about 600,000 barrels a day once the expansion is completed in 2010.

The hiring of more than 700 workers is great news in hard economic times, said Tanya Pereira, Brewer economic development specialist, especially since the jobs pay well. Officials noted that the current work force is well above the 500 skilled workers that Cianbro originally planned to hire.

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