Megaload remains stalled at Kooskia

ExxonMobil test load now set to leave Lewiston March 7

February 23rd, 2011

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

The megaloads using U.S. Highway 12 to go from Lewiston to the Montana border haven’t moved an inch in the past 24 hours.

The start date of a test shipment for the ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil oversize loads previously scheduled to leave Lewiston Tuesday was delayed to March 7.

A shipment of ConocoPhillips continues to be stranded at Kooskia due to weather. It has had two nights on the road since it left Lewiston on Thursday.

A different issue halted the test shipment.

“Coordinating the availability of equipment necessary to move the module units in Lewiston has been a significant challenge due to the uncertainty associated with the timing of the issuance of overlegal permits,” according to a letter to the Idaho Transportation Department from Imperial Oil.

The test shipment has the same dimensions as the largest of ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil’s 114 megaloads using U.S. 12 carrying processing modules manufactured in Korea for a plant in the Kearl Oil Sands of Alberta, Canada. It’s 24 feet wide, 208 feet long and 30 feet high. But at 508,000 pounds, it weighs less, said Jon Harding, a spokesman for ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil.

The test run is supposed to detect any potential problems with navigating the curvy canyon road that haven’t surfaced in two years of planning. The trip is expected to be done in three segments, but Harding didn’t know what the stopping points were for each leg.

Running the test shipment is just one step ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil will take before the rest of its shipments move. Opponents of the megaloads get to present testimony at ITD proceeding that has yet to be scheduled. A hearing officer will preside and use information presented for a recommendation to ITD on the matter.

The delay Tuesday likely means the second ConocoPhillips megaload will likely be out of Idaho before the ExxonMobil test shipment leaves Lewiston. That haul has four more segments of travel before it reaches Montana.

It is carrying a half of a drum bound for a refinery in Billings, Mont. The other half of that drum is waiting just inside the Montana border so the two parts can convoy together to Billings. The pieces of a second drum for the same destination are still at the Port of Lewiston where they were shipped from Japan. They are expected to leave at the end of March or early April.

The loads take up two lanes of traffic, pull over at least every 15 minutes to allow traffic to pass and can only run between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

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