Megaload ready to take on snowy highway

Meanwhile, activity observed around Alberta-bound loads at Port of Lewiston

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

February 9, 2011

A ConocoPhillips megaload was poised to resume travel late Tuesday night on U.S. Highway 12 after being stranded by weather at Kooskia for nearly six days.

The third leg of what was originally anticipated to be a four-part trip across Idaho was shortened to end 10 miles east of Lowell, instead of farther east near the Lochsa Ranger Station, from where it was then supposed to proceed to the Montana border, according to an Idaho Transportation Department news release.

From about 10 miles east of Lowell, the load is expected to travel another 30 miles on the fourth night, then reach the Montana border on a fifth night, according to ITD.

“ITD is requesting the shipper, Emmert International, to approach the highway curves at slower speeds to ensure safety,” according to the new release.

ITD made the choice to allow the oversized shipment with half a drum bound for a Billings, Mont., refinery to go even though on Tuesday afternoon its own website indicated U.S. 12 had icy patches on the entire route ahead of the megaload.

A National Weather Service forecast predicted scattered snow showers for Tuesday at Lowell with patchy freezing fog after 10 p.m., the time the cargo was scheduled to leave Kooskia. ConocoPhillips previously stated the oversized transport wouldn’t be allowed to travel unless the highway was clear between the fog lines.

The supersized transport, which takes up two lanes of traffic, left Lewiston a week ago. The oil company wants to send three more similarly sized shipments, each carrying another half drum, for rehabilitation of the Billings refinery. They were all manufactured in Japan.

ITD has only issued permits for the first two ConocoPhillips loads. The haulers are limited to a window that runs from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., when traffic volume is lightest, and are supposed to pull over every 10 to 15 minutes to allow traffic to pass. The likely resumption of the journey for the ConocoPhillips load came as the Port of Lewiston reported crews are mobilizing to do fabrication on ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil’s megaloads.

About one dozen workers have arrived at the Port of Lewiston within the past week, said David Doeringsfeld, manager of the Port of Lewiston. The last activity surrounding the modules for a Kearl Oil Sands processing plant occurred in the week of Nov. 30 when the 38th one arrived, Doeringsfeld said.

That was the last one to be unloaded before river traffic from Portland, Ore., to Lewiston closed until March for refurbishment of some of the locks at the dams.

Doeringsfeld referred questions about what was being done to the loads and what, if anything, it could mean for the route the ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil loads might take, to the oil company. A spokesman for the oil company didn’t return messages left Tuesday by the Tribune. ITD didn’t answer questions about the issue either.

ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil wants to send 207 modules across Idaho on U.S. 12 and most of them would take up two lanes. The cargo is shipped from Korea, where it’s made, to the Port of Vancouver, Wash., then barged to the Port of Lewiston.

“We’ve had no indication anything is different for us,” said Theresa Wagner, a spokeswoman for the Port of Vancouver. “We anticipate things moving forward as planned.”

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