[Vision2020] Oregonian Shipment Story

Ron Force rforce2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 6 09:46:10 PST 2010

Giant Alberta-bound oil-sands shipments stall in Idaho as opposition mounts
Published: Sunday, December 05, 2010,  9:00 PM     Updated: Monday, December 06, 
2010,  6:13 AM
 Richard Read, The Oregonian  
View full sizeBenjamin Brink/The OregonianWorkers  at the Port of Vancouver 
prepare an Imperial Oil module for barging to  Lewiston Idaho. Imperial, which 
needs the factory building blocks for an  $8 billion project in Alberta's oil 
sands, is trying to get permits to  truck the South Korean-made behemoths 
through Idaho and Montana to  Canada.   Alberta's Oil Sands In northern Alberta,  
Canada's province north of Montana, miles of pristine forests, rivers  and 
wetlands are transformed into giant strip mines to extract oil from  the gooey 
sand. The process is expensive and energy -intensive, but as  easy drilling 
options dry out, Alberta's oil sands are looking like  gold-rush territory. 
They've Canada our biggest supplier of oil.      Imperial Oil managers thought 
they'd discovered a new Northwest Passage when they decided to send more than 
200 giant factory building blocks from South Korea to Canada via Idaho. 

The largest of the massive modules, built as pieces of an $8 billion project in 
Alberta's oil sands, are wide as two-lane highways, taller than freeway 
overpasses and two-thirds the length of football fields. Imperial planned to 
ship the behemoths to Vancouver, barge them upriver and unload them in Lewiston, 

For  $100 million or so, Imperial intended to relocate overhead wires in  Idaho 
and Montana, build dozens of highway pullouts and haul each load  in the dead of 
night to Canada. The route, on winding highways free of  overpasses, would avoid 
a much longer journey through the Panama Canal,  the Great Lakes and Minnesota.

(Related story: The sands of Canada: Oil supply salvation or sinkhole?) 

View full sizeBut Imperial finds its initial 34 shipments stranded in Lewiston, 
lacking state highway permits to complete the  U.S. portion of the trip and 
facing activist groups with names like Fighting Goliath and All Against the 
Haul. Environmentalists are seizing the chance to rally U.S. opposition to 
Alberta's oil sands, where miners wrest tarry deposits from sand and send about 
780,000 barrels of petroleum a day to the United States. 

Imperial  Oil remains determined. "Our bottom line is to move these modules  
safely and efficiently with a minimum of impacts on the people that we  pass," 
said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman at Imperial's Calgary  headquarters. 

View full size
The enormous scale of just one tentacle of Alberta's oil-sands operations 
illustrates the lengths to which companies will go to  procure oil after 
depleting reserves easily accessed by conventional  drilling. 

The oil sands help make Canada the top U.S. oil supplier, providing a secure 
source of petroleum from a friendly democratic neighbor. But oil-sands companies 
do so at a cost, using large amounts of energy and water to extract and process 
bitumen, a black tarry raw material. They discharge toxic wastewater, air 
pollutants and more greenhouse gases than are emitted when producing 
conventionally drilled oil. 

Environmentalists  oppose Imperial's mega loads on two main grounds, one being 
what they  call permanent industrialization of Idaho and Montana scenic 
corridors,  and the other being oil-sands impacts on Alberta and climate change. 
Bob McEnaney, a Natural Resources Defense Council public-lands expert, dug up 
Korean-language documents showing, he says,  that over the next 10 years 
ExxonMobil expects another 1,000 massive  factory modules made by South Korean 
company Sung Jin Geotec. 

"You're  basically industrializing what is one of the nation's first wild and  
scenic rivers," said, McEnaney, referring to Idaho's Lochsa River.  "We're 
opposed to the tar sands to begin with because of the climate impacts." 

Opponents are well organized with legal backing.

Portland's Sulzer Pumps U.S. makes key pieces for proposed oil-sands pipeline 
As Imperial Oil shipments languish in Lewiston, workers in Oregon assemble 
equipment for  another colossal oil-sands project awaiting government action. 

Sulzer Pumps U.S. Inc., the Portland-based arm of a Swiss manufacturer, is 
already making pumps for a $7 billion pipeline extension proposed by TransCanada 
Corp. The Keystone XL line could carry 375,000 barrels a day from the oil sands 
to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. 

Unlike Imperial, though, Sulzer has the work regardless whether the pipeline 
goes through. 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to decide early next year 
whether to authorize construction of Keystone XL, which received the 
Environmental Protection Agency's lowest possible ranking in a draft impact 
statement. U.S. senators Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., are 
leading members of Congress urging Clinton to weigh impacts of the pipeline. 

"This toxic pipeline would put American drinking water, air and farmland at 
great risk," said Kate Colarulli, Sierra Club dirty-fuels campaign director. 
"Building this pipeline would be like  putting 6.5 million new cars on America's 
roads, right when we are  making strides in fighting global-warming pollution." 

If Clinton turns down Keystone XL, pressure will increase for a double-barreled 
Enbridge Inc. pipeline that could carry 525,000 barrels a day from Edmonton to 
Kitimat, B.C., where tankers would depart for China and elsewhere. Kinder Morgan 
Inc. also wants to expand its Trans Mountain line from Alberta to British 
Columbia to supply Washington, British Columbia and Asia. 

The Keystone and Imperial debates are  raising the oil fields' profile in the 
United States. The Sierra Club  and other groups launched a national television 
ad campaign last week opposing Keystone XL. Cosmetics giant Avon announced last 
week it would ask its transport partners to avoid high-impact, high-carbon fuels 
such as those from the oil sands. 

Canada's government officials, launching their own public-relations campaign, 
stress the oil sands' outsize economic impacts on the United States. 

Oil-sands production will likely climb from 1.2 million barrels a day to about 4 
million barrels in 2025, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.  
Companies are expected to invest and spend $379 billion by 2034, the  institute 
said, resulting in 343,000 new U.S. jobs by 2015 alone. 

Sulzer, the pump manufacturer, won't reveal how much it will be paid for the 104 
pumps it's making for Keystone XL. 

Jack Feinstein, Sulzer's vice president  of project management, said the company 
made 134 pumps for the original  Keystone pipeline, which at more than 2,000 
miles is one of the world's  longest crude-oil lines. It's designed to bring 
petroleum from Alberta  to refineries in Oklahoma and Illinois. 

Together the Keystone and Keystone XL  orders are the largest non-nuclear 
project Sulzer, with a century's  history in Portland, has ever done.

-- Richard Read 
"I'm  very concerned about the long-term effects of these heavy trucks on our  
federal highway infrastructure," said Patricia Weber, a Corvallis  engineer who 
co-founded opposition group All Against the Haul. 

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., has asked the U.S. Transportation Department to 
investigate the state permitting process. 

"The  oversized loads... will degrade highway surfaces and subsurfaces,  damage 
bridges and road shoulders and dramatically increase maintenance  and repair 
costs," DeFazio said. "I am opposed to subsidizing ExxonMobil  oil-sands mining 
in Canada with taxpayer dollars." 

Jim Lynch, Montana Transportation Department director,  said opposing highway 
permits because of oil developments outside the  state is unusual. Lynch said 
the heaviest shipments would have less  impact than people realize, distributing 
600,000 pounds across 14 axles  with eight tires each, for a total 112 tires. 

A huge truck, a  pusher truck, three pilot cars and two police cruisers would 
take nine  nights to bring each load on the 510-mile route through Idaho and  
Montana. "They're moving at a time when most Montanans are in bed,  between 2 
and 5 in the morning." Lynch said. "At 2 a.m., the bars aren't  even open." 

Imperial's permit applications are mired in a thicket of state court decisions 
and bureaucracy. 

The controversy has snagged separate shipments of giant coker-drum equipment 
that Clackamas heavy hauler Emmert International plans to truck from Lewiston to 
a ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings, Mont. The four loads would travel partway 
on the same U.S. 12 route as the Imperial modules. 

The ConocoPhillips debate went to the Idaho Supreme Court, which returned it to 
the state transportation department. A hearing is planned in Boise Wednesday and 

"We're  still sitting and waiting," said Mark Hefty, project development  
manager for Emmert, which specializes in large loads. "It's the first  time 
we've ever run into anything like that." 

Oil-sands critics are not generally trying to shut down operations. Instead The 
Pembina Institute,  a Canadian research organization, calls for a pause on new 
approvals to  give time to plan new projects responsibly and to reduce 
cumulative  effects. 

Until now the U.S. government has largely supported the oil sands. A 
confidential memo written by a U.S. diplomat based in Calgary said a secure U.S. 
oil  supply was so important that Washington should shelve concerns about  
carbon emissions and support fitful attempts to "green" the oil sands. 

"U.S.  interests are best served by creating a context that facilitates the  
'greening' rather than the suppression of oil-sands output," Tom Huffaker wrote 
in 2008, when he was U.S. consul general in Calgary. Huffaker subsequently quit 
the foreign service and works for the Canadian Association of Petroleum 

Lobbyists  for the Albertan and Canadian governments are trying to weaken  
clean-energy and climate-change policies in the United States and Europe  to 
protect oil-sands interests, according to a report released this month by 
Climate Action Network Canada. The activist group  said officials seek to 
undermine California's low-carbon fuel standard  and U.S. and European 
clean-fuels policies. 

Opponents say they  often feel the deck is stacked against them, given the 
momentum behind  projects, the money involved and growing world oil demand. That 
sense  was reinforced last week as critics examined an official-looking  
document that appeared to predetermine Montana's approval of the  Imperial Oil 

View full size
The 76-page draft, discovered on the Internet by Eugene Weekly reporter Camilla 
Mortensen,  includes responses to 22 areas of concern in some 7,200 public 
comments  submitted last spring. Lynch, the Montana Transportation Department  
director, disowned the document, which is a "finding of no significant  impact," 
or FONSI. 

Computer technicians refer to the document as a "ghost FONSI,"  given that it's 
a Google-created version that lingered on the Web after  disappearing from the 
transport agency's servers. Greg Robertson,  public works director in Missoula 
county, where commissioners oppose the shipments, calls the document an "oops 

"Whoever wrote it sure knew what they were writing about," Robertson said. "I 
can't imagine it just magically showed up." 

--Richard Read 
© 2010 OregonLive.com. All rights reserved.

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