Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Vancouver USA Port Cargo Faces Overland Trouble

The arrival Sunday at the Washington-state Port of Vancouver may be the easiest part of the journey for nine giant pieces of oil production equipment bound for the Kearl Oil Sands in Canada.

The oil modules, each costing more than $1 million, are part of a total of 207 such modules that are being manufactured in South Korea, transported via cargo ship to Vancouver and then set for transport to the Canadian production site.

Officials at the port have spent several years establishing Vancouver as one of the premier West Coast maritime gateways for oversized cargoes such as the oil modules.

The oil module transportation plan calls for the Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil Canada-owned modules to be moved via barge from Vancouver to the Port of Lewiston in Idaho. From Lewiston the modules will be transferred to trucks for the overland trip through the mountains of Idaho and western Montana to the production site in Canada.
The 207 modules will be sent along in 15 smaller loads spread out between now and next June.

However, Idaho officials have refused permits for the overland transport of several similar ConocoPhillips pieces of equipment and the case reached the Idaho Supreme Court on Friday. A decision is expected within the next four weeks.

The oil modules will have to wait at Lewiston until the permit case is decided. In addition, the Montana Department of Transportation has said it will not decide on whether to issue permits to allow the oil modules to move through Montana until the Idaho court rules on the permit cases.

Public concerns about the oil module transport plan have also raised public concern in Idaho and Montana. Opponents of the oil module plan have said they fear major traffic delays, potential damage to roads and bridges, and possible impact to scenic and cultural resources along the proposed route.

Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil Canada, speaking to the Missoulian newspaper, would not say if the firm has a contingency plan if the overland transport permits are denied.

An Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil Canada spokesperson told the paper that the oil firm is "confident in the process" and the firm's intent is to move the oil modules along the proposed route.

Linwood Laughy of Kooskia, Idaho, one of the plaintiffs in the ConocoPhillips permit case in Idaho, told the paper that Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil's insistence on moving forward is disappointing but no surprise.

"With no decision from the Idaho Supreme Court regarding transportation permits and growing resistance to the mega-loads in Idaho and Montana, the arrival of the first giant Imperial Oil modules at the Port of Vancouver underscores Imperial Oil's arrogance," Laughy told the newspaper via e-mail. "As they told an angry audience in Kooskia on June 29th, ‘We have no plan B.'"