Some megaloads will bypass U.S. 12

Transport to Kearl Oil Sands plant in Canada would use I-5, I-90

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Saturday, February 12, 2011
An undetermined number of the 207 ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil megaloads are leaving the Port of Vancouver by truck instead of being barged to Lewiston for a journey across Idaho on U.S. Highway 12.

Some of the oil company’s Korean-made modules have previously left the Port of Vancouver by road, said Theresa Wagner, a spokeswoman for the Port of Vancouver, Wash.

A permit issued by the Washington Department of Transportation for Mammoet, ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil’s hauler, allows it to haul four “super loads” per week from the Port of Vancouver to the Washington border in Spokane. The permit runs from Feb. 7 to March 7.

The transports would use Interstate 5 and Interstate 90 as well as a state route in Vancouver. The permit describes the biggest of the loads as 24 feet wide, almost 16 feet tall and 150 feet long and weighing less than 200,000 pounds.

The weight and length of the shipments is smaller than the minimum size ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil previously reported would be involved in its 200-plus shipments across Idaho on their way to a processing plant in the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada.

Wagner couldn’t provide a total of how many loads might go by road versus taking the Columbia and Snake rivers to Lewiston. “We had anticipated some would go by road and some would go by barge. We didn’t have a specific number.”

She wasn’t aware of any oversized load being altered at the Port of Vancouver.

The development comes after a week of intense speculation about what exactly ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil’s plans are for its megaloads.

David Doeringsfeld, Lewiston’s port manager, indicated earlier this week about one dozen crew members were mobilizing to do work on the 34 ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil loads already at the Port of Lewiston.

Doeringsfeld has referred other questions about the activity to the oil company, which didn’t return calls left Friday afternoon.

The Idaho Transportation Department hasn’t heard anything about loads in Vancouver not going to Lewiston or those already in Lewiston taking a route other than U.S. 12, said Adam Rush, a spokesman for ITD.

ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil has been monitoring the progress of the largest shipment to ever use U.S. 12, a half-drum bound for a ConocoPhillips oil refinery in Billings, Mont.

It left Lewiston on Feb. 1 for a trip across Idaho on U.S. 12 that was supposed to take four nights.

If everything went according to revised plans, it arrived in Montana late Friday night or early this morning. It reached milepost 169 at 2:25 a.m. Friday, just five miles west of Montana.

ITD indicated Thursday the load would enter Montana, likely early Friday morning if weather and road conditions were right.

“Even though we were close to the Montana border, we decided it was best to stop for the night,” said Doral Hoff, an ITD maintenance engineer, assisting with the transport. “The pullout in Montana that will be used is eight miles inside the Montana border.”

The convoy got in two consecutive nights of travel that took it from Lewiston to Orofino, then to Kooskia, before encountering a weather delay that lasted almost six days. The second two nights of the trip have been stretched to four to allow the oversized shipment to cover smaller distances each evening and early morning. Its travel is restricted to between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. when traffic volumes are lightest. The megaload, which takes up two lanes of traffic, is required to pull over at least every 15 minutes to allow cars to pass.

The half drum is the first of four ConocoPhillips wants to move to Billings using U.S. 12 for the Idaho section of the trip. Once the first half is in Montana, it will wait for the second half, then the two will move together to Billings in a journey expected to last about two weeks.

ITD hasn’t announced when the second ConocoPhillips drum might leave the Port of Lewiston, where it and the other three were shipped from Japan where they were made.

The second two drum-halves are tentatively scheduled to travel in late March or early April.

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

A stop the megaloads rally will start at 1 p.m. Sunday where the current load is stopped on U.S. Highway 12 in Idaho, or Montana. More information can be found online at