March 23, 2011 in Idaho

Oversized oil equipment loads may be headed to I-90

Moscow-Pullman Daily News
 

MOSCOW – The controversial, oversized loads of oil refinery equipment destined for a project in Alberta, Canada, may be detoured north through Kootenai and Shoshone counties.

The Idaho Transportation Department is reviewing a proposal from Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil to reduce the size of 33 megaloads at the Port of Lewiston so they can be shipped up U.S. Highway 95 to Interstate 90.

The loads – up to 66 of them – would likely go through Moscow.

A crew of around 100 is at work on the megaloads, although it was not clear Tuesday exactly how much they would be reduced in length, width or height.

“Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil is currently cutting 33 loads that are located at the Port of Lewiston in half,” said Mollie McCarty, ITD governmental affairs manager, in an email.

The cost of cutting the 33 loads at the Port of Lewiston is about $500,000 each, she said in the email, but ITD is not aware of the timeline to complete these reductions.

Cutting all 33 loads in half could cost ExxonMobil $16.5 million.

The ITD has begun reviewing the proposal to use Highway 95, though a fixed route has not yet been determined, ITD officials said.

“I know that we’re at the very initial part of that,” said McCarty. “We’re in the early stages right now for reviewing this plan.”

At the same time, a full-size test shipment – much like the highly contested ConocoPhillips megaloads – still is slated to startup U.S. Highway 12 to assess whether ExxonMobil megaloads can safely make the same journey, possibly more than a hundred times in the future.

The test shipment – which is 24 feet wide, 208 feet long, 30 feet high and weighs 508,000 pounds – is scheduled to leave the Port of Lewiston Monday night and is the only load ITD has approved for travel. The oil company would like this to be the first of 114 such shipments destined for the Kearl Oil Sands project in Alberta, Canada.

ITD spokesman Adam Rush said the test shipment will be used to decide whether movement along the curvy highway is manageable and if any problems arise that need to be addressed. The trip is expected to take three days.

Meanwhile, two ConocoPhillips megaloads destined for a Billings, Mont., refinery may not make it there until April, according to a report from the Missoulian. The second load left Lewiston on Feb. 17.


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