The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 12, 2008

Smooth journey for giant Marathon coker drums

By The Building Tradesman

DETROIT - One of the first major tasks associated with the Marathon Petroleum Co.'s Heavy Oil Upgrade Project (HUOP) was the installation of a pair of "coker drums."

Built in Spain, then floated across the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence Seaway to Southwest Detroit, the drums weighed more than a million pounds each and required tons of special care by the building trades. The massive drums were lowered into place on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3. Mission accomplished.

"There was so much pre-planning, we went over everything," said Boilermakers Local 169 General Foreman Terry Sullivan, working for Mammoet USA, Inc., part of a Dutch company that specializes in hoisting and transporting heavy objects. "We set one on Saturday, the other on the next Monday. We couldn't have done it without a great crew. We had the right guys for the right job."

Upon arrival at docks on the Rouge River, the coker drums were offloaded from barges and onto "golhofers," - multiple axle flatbed trailers with wheels that can turn in an direction and handle uneven terrain. They transferred the coker drums more than a half mile to the Marathon site.

According to Marathon, the new hardware is part of their "delayed coker" processing system at the plant, which will convert asphalt-like material into liquid petroleum fuel blend components and petroleum coke (a coal-like substance). It also will allow the refinery to thermally convert and upgrade heavy Canadian crude oil into higher quality products such as gasoline, diesel and petroleum coke.

Construction on the refinery upgrade began last June and was originally expected to cost $1.9 billion and be complete in 2010. But due to "current market conditions," Marathon announced Oct. 31 that they are "reevaluating the project construction schedule," working on a new timeline and cost estimate, expecting to complete the analysis by the end of the year.

ONE OFTHE TWO "coker drums" - each weighing more than a million pounds - is wheeled into place at Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit. Photo by Terry Sullivan
THE SECOND OF TWO coker drums at Marathon Oil Refinery in Southwest Detroit is lowered into place.