CB&I: A sense of achievement

09 July 2004
The Apollo moon project and Boeing's 747 Jumbo jet are among the greatest technological achievements of the latter part of the 20th century. The Apollo programme opened the door to a new era in space travel with the first moon landing in 1969. The jumbo - the world's largest passenger aircraft - took off for the first time that same year. A third achievement that year was the Khazzan number one offshore storage structure in Dubai, built by US-based Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I). All three projects received the outstanding engineering achievement award made by The National Society of Professional Engineers of the US in 1969.

Khazzan - the Arabic word for storage - has since become a benchmark when it comes to offshore oil storage projects. The 500,000-barrel tank, which CB&I built for Dubai Petroleum Company, is located about 100 kilometres off Dubai's coast at a depth of about 50 metres. Although it was completed 35 years ago, the project's imprint on Dubai is still evident in the name that is used when referring to the stretch of land where the tank was built - Chicago beach.

Khazzan is not the only CB&I project to make its mark on the Middle East. Since the company first arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1939, CB&I has built up a reputation as the region's foremost tank storage contractor, having carried out numerous projects between Egypt and Qatar and Syria and Yemen.

In the 1980s, CB&I built seven cryogenic tanks for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage on Abu Dhabi's Das Island - a deal worth $360 million. Ten years later, the company designed and built a tank farm comprising more than 100 structures for the UK's BP in Aden. At present, CB&I is involved - among other projects - as subcontractor on the estimated $1,100 million Al-Khaleej gas project (AKG) in Qatar. The work involves installing new gas treatment and natural gas liquid (NGL) recovery units at Ras Laffan. Under the estimated $50 million deal awarded last August, CB&I is building a propane storage tank with capacity of 125,000 cubic metres and a 110,000-cubic-metre butane storage tank - the world's largest facilities of their kind. A follow-up contract for an additional two tanks was awarded in February by the client, a Japanese/Italian/local joint venture of Chiyoda Corporation, Mitsui & Company, Snamprogetti and Almana Trading Company.

While CB&I is still best known in the Middle East as a lump sum turnkey (LSTK) contractor for tank and storage facilities, the company's reference list has expanded in recent years. 'Around 25 per cent of our new business worldwide comes from building storage tanks and a variety of specialised steel structures,' says Philip Asherman, executive vice-president and chief marketing officer at CB&I's Houston administrative headquarters. 'However, we have been able to grow our global capability quite substantially in the last couple of years, so that in redefining our company, a majority of our new work will come from LNG and process EPC [engineering, procurement and construction] projects.'

CB&I has evolved from a storage and tank construction specialist into an LSTK EPC contractor with wide-ranging processing capabilities - a remarkable transformation that has been the result of an aggressive expansion strategy over the past four years. The first major step towards broadening the company's portfolio was taken in 2000, when CB&I purchased Texas-based Howe-Baker International, a contractor specialising in the construction of hydrocarbon processing plants for the refining, petrochemical and natural gas industries. The purchase was followed two years later by the acquisition of another Texas-based company, TPA, since integrated with Howe-Baker's operations to form TPA Howe-Baker, an EPC contractor specialising in sulphur removal and recovery.

In 2003, the company purchased

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