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Megaton modules headed for county roads

Giant upgrader pieces of 19-storey tall tanks

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 08, 2014 06:00 am

BIG MOVE – A dozen massive steel components will be trucked to the North West upgrader site after travelling to the area by sea and rail from Japan.
BIG MOVE – A dozen massive steel components will be trucked to the North West upgrader site after travelling to the area by sea and rail from Japan.
Supplied photo

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Truck route from Egremont to the North West upgrader in Sturgeon County:

• From Egremont, the trucks will head south on Highway 827, turn east onto Highway 28, and then south onto Highway 829.
• The trucks then turn right onto Highway 644, which takes them into Redwater.
• Once in Redwater, the trucks will turn south onto Highway 38 (which becomes Highway 643).
• From there they’ll proceed to the upgrader site, which is right next to the Agrium fertilizer plant.

County residents will see some wide loads on the road this month as some of the biggest bits of the North West upgrader come to town.

Starting next week, the North West Redwater Partnership will be hauling 12 huge steel components from Egremont to the partnership’s lands west of the Agrium fertilizer plant in Sturgeon County. Each component is about 21 metres long and five metres wide, and weighs up to a million pounds (about 76 elephants).

These cylindrical components are part of the upcoming North West Sturgeon Refinery (or upgrader), said Doug Bertsch, vice-president of regulatory and stakeholders affairs for the partnership.

“They look like a giant sausage,” he said.

Once assembled, the components will serve as the three reactors the refinery will use to transform bitumen into diesel, each of which will be up to 19-storeys tall and weigh 1,000 tonnes, Bertsch said.

“They’re worth tens of millions,” he said.

It’s a move that’s been in the works since 2008, said Ed Clarke, logistics co-ordinator for the partnership.

“It’s taken months of planning to get everything in order.”

Long journey

The North West refinery will use high heat and pressure to combine hydrogen and bitumen, creating diesel and other products. These reactions are so intense that the reaction chambers have to be composed of special alloys made in only a few places in the world, such as Japan, Bertsch said.

North West had Japan’s Kobe Steel make the reactors in pieces since they were too big to ship whole, Bertsch said. The pieces sailed to Hawaii, through the Panama Canal and up the east coast before being unloaded at Duluth, Minn. in 2008 – a journey of roughly 22,000 kilometres.

Rail lines on the west side of North America weren’t strong enough to handle the weight of these pieces, said Bertsch when asked why they took this roundabout route.

“Basically, we had to come the other way around the world.”

The 2008 global recession put the refinery on hold at that point, so the pieces spent the next five years sitting in storage.

The components shipped out from Duluth (which is at the western-most tip of Lake Superior) on Dec. 20, Clarke said.

“We had 22 inches of snow,” he recalled, and it was around -20 C outside. “I tell you, it was cold.”

The components, each on a beefed-up rail car able to support their weight, crawled across the border on Dec. 23 and reached Winnipeg by Boxing Day, Clarke said.

Crews had to add large weights to each car to keep the centre of gravity low and remove those weights whenever they crossed a bridge. Last week the components arrived in Egremont (about 10 kilometres north of Redwater.)

Wide load ahead

Mammoet Canada will haul the 12 components from Egremont to the refinery site in Sturgeon County starting next week, Bertsch said. Expect 12 shipments every one to two days between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Crews will use a four-legged hydraulic gantry to lift each component about 10 centimetres off the rail car, then slide the car out and replace it with a Scheuerle trailer – a heavy-duty steerable trailer with 24 sets of wheels. Each trailer will then be pulled by one truck, pushed by two others, and accompanied by numerous escorts, Bertsch said.

The convoy will turn east onto Highway 28, south onto Highway 829, and then drive west along Highway 644 to Redwater – all at about 16 kilometres an hour, Clarke said.

As the trailer is about 43 metres long (about three Greyhound buses) and six wide, Clarke said, crews will temporarily expand some intersections along the route with gravel to give the convoy enough space to turn. RCMP may also close parts of roads along the route for about 10 minutes as the convoy passes. The convoys have been scheduled to avoid school bus runs.

From Redwater, the convoy will head south on Highways 38 and 643 to the refinery site. There, the components will be dropped in a building the size of about seven basketball courts (3,060 square metres) where they will be welded together over several months.

These won’t be the last giant items to arrive at the refinery site, Bertsch said. It will be getting some refinery modules next year that will be even bigger (but lighter) than these reactors.

Questions on the move should go to Bertsch at 403-451-4171.


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