Megaloads arrive in Vancouver

Company has ‘no certainty’ permits will be issued for transport on U.S. 12

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The first nine of Imperial Oil’s more than 200 oversized loads arrived in Vancouver, Wash., Monday, bringing them one step closer to Lewiston, where the company would like to transfer them to trucks to cross Idaho on U.S. Highway 12.

Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, brought the Korean-made oil processing equipment into the country even though it has “no certainty” it will secure permits from Idaho and Montana for its journey to Canada, said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “We continue to have confidence in the process we’re working through in Idaho and Montana to identify, assess and mitigate concerns and potential impacts.”

The cargo, bound for the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, will generate $1 million for the Port of Vancouver compared with about $100,000 for the Port of Lewiston, according to officials from both ports.

The reason for the difference involves the complexity of what will happen to the loads at the Port of Vancouver, said Todd Coleman, deputy executive director for the port.

Each module will be removed from an ocean-going vessel and taken to a storage area, where it will stay until it’s loaded onto a barge that will carry it up the Columbia-Snake river system, Coleman said.

The $1 million the Port of Vancouver receives is for set up of its cranes, rental of its cranes and the use of its facilities, said Alastair Smith, director of marketing and operations at the Port of Vancouver.

How much it costs to maneuver the cargo on and off the vessels varies from party to party in arrangements handled by longshoremen and other non-port employees, Smith said. Usually the details of those arrangements are in contracts typically not made public.

The role the Port of Lewiston may play if it gets a contract with Imperial Oil would be less expensive because it doesn’t involve cranes, said David Doeringsfeld, manager of the Port of Lewiston.

The cargo would be rolled off barges at the Port of Lewiston, and Mammoet, a contractor hired by Imperial Oil, will handle most of the labor, Doeringsfeld said. That might happen as early as mid-October, said Rolheiser, who declined to be more specific about a time line.

Transferring the cargo at the ports of Vancouver and Lewiston is only one hurdle Imperial Oil could face in transporting the oil processing equipment.

The Idaho Supreme Court heard a case involving Conoco Phillips on Friday and hasn’t yet issued a decision. Conoco Phillips plans to haul four loads across Idaho on U.S. Highway 12 that, like the majority of Imperial Oil’s cargo, would block two lanes of traffic.

One issue in the case is if the trucks will have to pull over every 15 minutes as Conoco Phillips wants or if traffic can only be delayed by 10 minutes. Imperial Oil’s plan also calls for 15-minute delays and many wonder if the narrow, curvy Highway 12 would have enough turnouts to accommodate a 10-minute window.

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