It’s large, filling up an entire barge, and it set sail Wednesday evening.

The largest shipment sent from the Port of Catoosa is off to the Chevron Oil Refinery in Pascagoula, Miss., and is expected to increase gasoline production by 25 percent.

The 1.13 million pound catalytic cracking unit reactor was assembled from six major sub-assemblies manufactured by Heating Specialists Inc.

But what is a cracking unit?

“It’s the unit in the refinery that is the first step in making gasoline,” HSI President Alan Jackson said. “It makes a lot of gasoline on the first pass of the process. It takes heated oil and cracks it into gasoline and other products.”

Shipping the entire piece as one unit is a trend most companies in the industry are turning to, according to Jackson.

“It’s a major trend in the industry anyway,” Jackson said. “One of the reasons they wanted to buy it fully assembled was so they didn’t have to bring a bunch of extra labor down there and build the unit. They save money and time, and the labor force is pretty stretched out right now trying to get over some of the effects of (hurricane) Katrina.”

Competing with international companies for the vessel — including those in Korea and Spain — HSI welcomed the opportunity to assemble the machinery that American companies have given up.

“Most of the American manufacturers have gone out of the business,” Jackson said. “They’ve kind of quit it. Here we are building it and competing with the international market right here in Tulsa.”

For about one and half years, more than 100 employees at HSI have been assembling the nearly $7 million, 103-feet long cracking unit, working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, for the past few months. Jackson said those long hours is what pushed the vessel to be ready for shipment this week.

“We’re pretty proud of the men that built this and all of our guys touched at one time or another,” Jackson said. “They’re proud too, but they’re tired.”

Mike Malone, of Foyil, was just one of those who put in the long hours to finish the project.

“We’re ready for it to go, and Chevron is ready, too,” Malone said. “We’ve been working hard and we’re ready to get it to them.”

HSI currently has two more projects for Chevron under way. However, those will be shipped in pieces to Philadelphia, over the ocean, to the refinery.

The barge will be taken by waterway out of the Port of Catoosa to the Mississippi River, then on to New Orleans, La. From there, the barge will be taken via intercoastal waterway to Pascagoula.

Contact Krystal J. Carman, newsed@swbell.net.

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