L-363 helps build $3.8 billion refinery expansion

“The Boilermaker trade proved that it can meet all of those [project] challenges.” – Larry Sicking, Phillips 66

The Phillips 66 Wood River refinery at night. At left is the new four-drum coker unit. All photos courtesy Phillips 66

Phillips 66 project raises heavy Canadian crude capacity 200 percent

MEMBERS OF LOCAL 363 (East St. Louis) and sister locals played a major role in a $3.8 billion, three-year expansion of the Phillips 66 Wood River oil refinery in Roxana, Ill. Referred to as CORE (Coker and Refinery Expansion), the project was completed and started up in November 2011.

The Wood River facility is co-owned by Cenovus Energy Inc., a Canadian downstream oil company based in Calgary, Alberta. The plant is the largest refinery operated by Phillips 66, with over 800 permanent employees represented by 10 unions, including Local 483 (Alton, Ill.) and supplemented by Local 363. Boilermakers have been involved with the refinery since it opened nearly 100 years ago.

Major components of the expansion project included a new four-drum coker unit, a new vacuum flasher, a new hydrogen plant, and two new sulfur plants. Boilermakers also set a 38-ft.-dia., 190-ft.-tall vacuum flasher tower weighing nearly 1,000 tons and erected wet gas scrubbers and selective catalytic reduction units (SCRs) for Catalytic Cracking Units 1 and 2.

CORE increased the refinery’s capacity to handle heavy crude from the Alberta oil sands region by 200 percent. The facility can now process about 220,000 barrels of heavy Canadian crude per day. The expansion also increased gross coking capacity by 65,000 bpd to 83,000 bpd, and gasoline and diesel fuel yield by five percent to nearly 85 percent.

About 3,000 union craftsmen were employed at peak, with approximately 300 Boilermakers at peak working for Bechtel, Kiewit (Cherne), URS, and Madison Industrial.

Major project components were delivered by barge from the Mississippi River and set on multi-wheel transporters for the six-mile trip from the river to the plant, said Larry Sicking, Phillips 66 Project Manager for offsites and utilities.

“We transported and set all the equipment — heavily modular type construction — with essentially zero incidents. Obviously the Boilermakers had a lot to do with that. [It was] just an outstanding performance.”

Project partners promote safety

SICKING STRESSED THE importance of high safety standards across all parties, including Phillips 66, contractors, and union labor.

“I feel personally proud of the safety performance. We didn’t quite meet our goals by our internal standards, but we are, net, very proud.” He said 22 million site hours were worked with an overall recordable injury rate of .38, adding that the rate for the final year was .18, and there was not a single lost work day during the last 24 months.

“I think by most measures it was a successful project. It’s a case study and a great example of what working together can really do.” He added that the tripartite approach “was the key to our success.”

Sicking cited former L-363 BM-ST Rick Eller (who retired near the end of the project) and current L-363 BM-ST Bill Mulconnery for their roles in site-wide safety leadership teams and site-wide construction teams.

“Rick and Bill participated in those teams along with other business managers, and that’s part of the reason for our project success,” he said.

Travelers help meet manning requirements

UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, Eller and Mulconnery might have been hard-pressed to man the refinery expansion, since a second major project was going on at the same time just 60 miles away in Lively Grove, Ill. There, the $4 billion Prairie State Energy Campus, including a 1,600-MW advanced coal plant, was under construction. Other L-363 work, including a $200 million, 10-year tank maintenance project at the refinery as well as annual turnarounds, also required skilled Boilermakers.

“As things worked out, the economic slowdown left many Boilermakers across the country looking for work,” said Mulconnery, “so manning really wasn’t an issue.”

More than 1,000 travelers accepted work in L-363’s jurisdiction.

“Many of them brought fifth-wheelers or purchased homes in the area,” Mulconnery said. We had 1,600 Boilermakers [on various projects] during a three-month peak and more than 1,000 at work for four years.”

Mulconnery added that the performance of Boilermakers on the CORE project was excellent. “They had a great run.”

Phillip 66’s Sicking agreed.

“When you get on these megaprojects, the work can be complicated. You are in close quarters with other crafts; the scopes vary; so you need a lot of skills to pull this work off; get this work done and get it done safely. The Boilermaker trade proved that it can meet all of those challenges.”


  • Goal: Expand Alberta heavy crude capacity
  • Cost: $3.8 billion
  • Project term: 3 years
  • Completion: November 2012
  • Craft workers at peak: 3,000 (300 Boilermakers)
  • Hours worked onsite: 22 million
  • Major components: Coker unit, vacuum flasher, hydrogen plant, two sulfur plants, wet gas scrubbers, and selective catalytic reduction units (SCRs)
  • Key Challenges: Safety, tight work areas, manpower availability, moving/setting large pre-fab components, concurrent turnaround projects
  • Heavy Canadian crude capacity: Increased by 200 percent
  • Gross coking capacity: Increased by 65,000 barrels per day
  • Gasoline and diesel yield: Increased by five percent


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Boilermaker Reporter Issue

Published December 13, 2012

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