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Eye On Boise

Wed., Aug. 3, 2011, 4:47 p.m.

Six months later, Conoco megaloads have now arrived in Billings

The final ConocoPhillips megaload to travel across U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho has arrived at its destination in Billings, many months after it was expected. To transport a Japanese-made replacement coker drum to its Billings refinery from the Port of Lewiston, ConocoPhillips had it cut into four giant megaloads each 26 feet high, 29 feet wide, and weighing 350 tons; the first one left Lewiston on Feb. 1, anticipating a 25-day trip. It and the second one arrived in Billings 64 days later. The third and fourth loads left Lewiston in early May, anticipating a June 8 arrival in Billings; instead, they got there today, Aug. 3rd.

Among the obstacles they faced along the way: weather delays, court challenges, detours and delays in Montana due to spring flooding and washouts, and more. The Conoco loads are just the prelude to the much bigger proposal from Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil to ship 200-plus megaloads of oil equipment across scenic Highway 12 from Lewiston to Montana, then north to the Alberta oil sands; permitting delays and court challenges have slowed those, and so far, Imperial/Exxon has sent several of its huge loads north from Lewiston via a different route, up Highway 95 through Moscow to Coeur d'Alene, then on the freeway into Montana and up to Canada.

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The final two huge shipments of equipment for the ConocoPhillips refinery have arrived in Billings despite several court cases, some protests and weather delays. The two halves of the second coker drum stopped along Montana Highway 3 early Wednesday and were scheduled to be moved to the refinery overnight. The first two so-called megaloads arrived in Billings in early April as part of a refinery upgrade. The coker applies heat and pressure to heavier, less valuable components of crude oil, converting them into more useful products. The drums traveled from the Port of Lewiston in Idaho to Montana, mostly on two-lane roads. Conservation groups sought to stop the loads, saying they threatened tourism, public safety and pristine waters along the route. Refinery manager Steven Steach said he's relieved the coker drums have finally arrived.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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