Second megaload crosses border

Extra sets of wheels removed for travel in Montana

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune
March 8, 2011

The second ConocoPhillips megaload crossed into Montana at 12:24 a.m. Monday, about 11/2 weeks behind schedule.

The half drum bound for a Billings, Mont., refinery ventured a little farther into Montana before stopping, after leaving Lewiston on Feb. 17 in a trip predicted to take a week.

It was supposed to convoy with a second drum-half parked in the same vicinity starting early this morning in a trip to Billings anticipated to take about two weeks.

Most of the delays on the Idaho portion of the trip involved weather, but some were related to equipment, such as on Friday evening.

The oversized shipment stopped at mile marker 169 in Idaho rather than enter Montana, as a toll-free line for the oil company indicated it would.

Extra sets of wheels needed to cross bridges in Idaho – but not required for Montana – were removed at the stop, said Jim Lynch, director of the Montana Department of Transportation.

The cargo didn’t move Saturday evening or Sunday morning because, unlike Idaho, Montana doesn’t allow it to be on the highway between midnight and 6 a.m. on Sundays, Lynch said.

Montana’s rules differ from Idaho’s in other ways too. The extra-big haul has to pull over every 10 minutes, not 15 minutes, to allow vehicles to pass. Its window of travel in Montana extends from midnight to 6 a.m. instead of from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

The next oversized load scheduled to go from Lewiston to the Montana border on U.S. Highway 12 is a test shipment for ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil.

It is expected to leave on March 28 and arrive in Montana April 1. What happens to the test shipment once it reaches Montana is not clear.

ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil is requesting a Montana permit for the test shipment, according to the Idaho Transportation Department.

The status of that request could not be obtained by the Tribune late Monday afternoon. Previously officials in Montana had thought the test shipment would be disassembled once it reached the state.

The test shipment is 30 feet tall, 24 feet wide and 208 feet long, the same dimensions as the largest load ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil wants to ship from Lewiston to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada.

It would be one of more than 100 to use the route if ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil can get permission from ITD to do so. The other shipments would contain modules for an oil processing plant manufactured in South Korea that were shipped to Lewiston by water.

After the test load, ConocoPhillips might be ready to ship its two remaining megaloads. The first might leave the Port of Lewiston sometime around April 7, according to ITD.

Like the ones in Montana now, each one contains half of a Japanese manufactured drum that was barged to Lewiston.

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