Massive cargo arrives at Port of Lewiston

Drums bound for Montana oil refinery waiting for OK to be trucked east on U.S. 12

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The rotation of 96 wheels on a trailer was barely visible at times as a 375,000-pound, 25-foot-diameter drum for a Montana oil refinery edged its way off a barge on the Clearwater River to a Port of Lewiston parking lot.

One man held a remote control that could turn the wheels individually in any direction as the trailer rolled over a platform connecting the barge with dry land.

At least eight crew members from Emmert International – a company that specializes in hauling oversized loads – communicated with hand signals as a tug on the west side of the barge shoved against the current to keep the barge perpendicular with the dock.

“We think this is pretty exciting, and this is an average day at the office for these guys,” said David Doeringsfeld, manager of the Port of Lewiston.

The three-hour move was a small piece of a trip that will likely take the drum, and three others that arrived on the same barge, from Lewiston to Billings, Mont., over U.S. Highway 12, closing traffic in both directions for 15- minute intervals at night as the oversized load passes. The drums were manufactured for Conoco in Japan, shipped on a vessel across the Pacific Ocean and loaded onto a barge in Longview, Wash., that took them to Lewiston, Doeringsfeld said.

The next stage of the journey to a refinery in Billings could start as early as June 7, but that will depend on a number of variables including if travel permits are issued, said Doral Hoff, district maintenance engineer for the Idaho Department of Transportation in Lewiston. “Their transportation plan has been turned in and we’re reviewing it to see if it meets the criteria.”

The first day, it would go from Lewiston to Orofino. The second day, it would move from Orofino to Kooskia. The third day, it would go from Kooskia to mile marker 124 near Wilderness Gateway campground before the Idaho portion of the trip would end on the fourth day at the Montana border.

The drums will be stored at the Port of Lewiston in the interim as special trailers are constructed for the highway portion of the trip, Doeringsfeld said.

The trailers will have tractors on both ends as they travel making them about 220 feet long and about 30 feet wide. The weight will be distributed by lots of wheels underneath the load. The principle is the same as the one that allows performers to lie on a bed of nails, Hoff said. If they did it with four nails their skin would be punctured, but with dozens of them they don’t get hurt because the pressure is more evenly divided.

The loads will travel at a low rate of speed to limit how much the cargo bounces, another measure that helps prevent damage to the road, Hoff said.

What happened Monday may be a glimpse of what could become commonplace at the Port of Lewiston starting in November. Imperial Oil/Exxon Mobile Corp. is working on plans to take more than 200 oversized loads of processing equipment made in South Korea on the same Idaho route to the Kearl oil sands project in Alberta, Canada.

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.