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TRANSPORTATION: Inching toward the Kearl oil sands project

When I saw an item about the difficulty of moving large industrial loads from Idaho through Montana to Canada, it was the word "Idaho" that caught my eye. Then the word "Kearl" as in Imperial Oil's oil sands development near Fort McMurray, AB....



When I saw an item about the difficulty of moving large industrial loads from Idaho through Montana to Canada, it was the word “Idaho” that caught my eye. Then the word “Kearl” as in Imperial Oil‘s oil sands development near Fort McMurray, AB. Imperial plans to begin production at its 110,000 bbl/d Kearl mine and plant later this year.

Imperial originally drew up the Kearl Module Transportation Plan involving megaloads 61 metres long, 9.1 metres high and 7.3 metres wide. (The mind boggles). Thirty-three modules were shipped from Korea via ocean and river to the port at Lewiston, ID, in the northern, skinny part of that state. There megaloads have been broken down into smaller loads (small enough to fit under highway overpasses) for transport along existing roads to northern Alberta.

Meanwhile, environmental opposition to the oil sands heated up.

Most loads have been shipped via alternate routes to Canada. Imperial chose a number to cross the Idaho panhandle and has applied to move them across Montana. To do that requires the construction of 75 roadway turnouts, reinforcement of bridges, and the relocations of overhead wires and traffic signals along the 480 km. Those loads are sitting on the border between the two states until a court rules on if and when they may move again.

Local residents are raising questions: Will it be only 200 loads? Is this the start of huge, permanent oil sands supply line? What are the environmental implications of extensive roadway changes?

In Idaho, opponents are arguing that the use of Highway 12 along the Lochsa River is a violation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

More information about the Kearl project is available at ImperialOil.ca/Canada-English/operations_sands_kearl.aspx.


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