Officials Offer Differing Views on Future of Megaloads and the Port of Lewiston

In a Tuesday, February 21, Lewiston Tribune story, Port of Lewiston manager David Doeringsfeld stated that Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil has scheduled no additional tar sands processing plant parts to move through the port.  Like the equipment of two companies contracted by the oil giant, two large cranes that load modules onto trailers will also be dismantled and removed from the port by the end of March.  But Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser asserts that his firm has not made decisions about exact numbers of megaloads on specific routes for an approved second phase of plant construction and expansion to a similar capacity as the first, expecting completion by the end of 2012.  Although all of Imperial Oil’s original 207 transports have either almost vacated Highway 95 or are currently moving out of the Port of Pasco up Highway 395, a second wave of a similar amount of South Korean-made split-height components could pummel our Northwest/Northern Rockies highways soon.  Meanwhile, two other companies have inquired about shipping through the port an unknown number of oversized wind turbine and pressure vessel pieces.

(From WIRT Newsletter)

Please see Officials Offer Differing Views on Future of Megaloads and the Port of Lewiston below for more updates.

Two large cranes at the Port of Lewiston may be dismantled by the end of March, perhaps marking the end of Imperial Oil’s use of Idaho’s only seaport for megaloads.

The handful of extra-large shipments for the oil company remaining at the Port of Lewiston are expected to leave by the end of the month, said David Doeringsfeld, manager of the Port of Lewiston.

Three of those are planned to depart today after 8 p.m. The port and Imperial Oil couldn’t provide a tally Monday of how many others will be left at the port after that.

The reason the cranes are still at the Port of Lewiston is they are needed to load the modules onto trailers, Doeringsfeld said.

Two companies working for Imperial Oil will likely remove their equipment and vacate the port by the end of March, Doeringsfeld said. “As far as the Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil project, there are no additional modules scheduled to go through the Port of Lewiston.”

A spokesman for Imperial Oil, however, declined to confirm the timetable Doeringsfeld outlined. “It’s premature to talk about specific numbers of loads on specific routes. Those decisions have not been made,” said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil in Calgary, Alberta.

All of the more than 200 South Korean-made pieces for a processing plant under construction at the Kearl Oil Sands have arrived in the United States.

A total of 34 came to the Port of Lewiston. All but one was converted to about 70 shorter shipments at a cost of more than $500,000 for each unit.

They have been leaving by U.S. Highway 95, taking a combination of highways and interstates to get to Canada. Without modifications, they were too tall to go underneath interstate overpasses. The 34th megaload was a test shipment that went across Idaho last spring.

Others began the road portion of their journey at the Port of Vancouver. The remainder were manufactured in a way that made them less expensive to shorten and are being transferred to trucks at the Port of Pasco, said Rolheiser, who didn’t know how many are in the Tri-Cities.

Originally, Imperial Oil wanted all the components to come to Lewiston and then take U.S. Highway 12 to Montana, where they would use a series of highways to get to the Canadian border.

While the state of Idaho gave permission for the megaloads that take up two lanes of traffic, Imperial Oil hasn’t yet secured approval in Montana.

Last week, a District Court judge in Montana sided in part with Missoula County and three environmental groups seeking to stop the megaloads. They contended the Montana Department of Transportation hadn’t adequately reviewed Imperial Oil’s plans.

The judge sent the proposal back to MDT for more work, including determining if turnouts that will be constructed to accommodate the huge rigs will be temporary or permanent.

It’s not clear why Imperial Oil is pursuing the case, given that all of its original more than 200 oversized loads appear to be poised to get to Canada without taking the route Missoula County and the environmentalists oppose.

“Imperial Oil continues (to view) U.S. 12 as the only viable route that’s available to move modules in their original size,” Rolheiser said.

Another variable is what role, if any, U.S. 12 would play for components in an expansion of the processing plant that has been approved, but has yet to start. The addition has the same capacity as the facility being built and is expected to be complete at the end of the year.

The 200-plus megaloads originally slated to go through the Port of Lewiston represented 20 percent of the components fabricated off-site for the first part of the processing plant, Rolheiser said.

The remainder were made in Canada, mostly in Edmonton.

How much of the second phase of component fabrication will occur in South Korea is still being determined, Rolheiser said. “Korea, in our minds, remains a safe and cost-effective supplier of equipment to the oil sands.”

Even if Imperial Oil has no additional use for the Port of Lewiston in handling megaloads, others might.

The port has fielded initial questions from two other companies involving oversized loads, Doeringsfeld said. One would be hauling wind turbines and the second would be transporting pressure vessels.

It’s too early to know how many shipments would be involved or when they would happen, Doeringsfeld said.

(By Elaine Williams, The Lewiston Tribune)


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