[Vision2020] Oregonian Shipment Story
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
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
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
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
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,"
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."
© 2010 OregonLive.com. All rights reserved.
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