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Refinery equipment to travel from Idaho

| June 17, 2010 9:00 PM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Two enormous truckloads of equipment needed for an upgrade at the ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings are expected to hit the road next month, company officials said.

The cylindrical steel drums that will replace aging drums inside the refinery's coker unit have been sitting in Lewiston, Idaho, since mid-May. They were manufactured in Japan, shipped to the United States and brought up the Columbia River by barge.

The drums are in two pieces. The first load of two large trucks is expected to hit the road after July 4. The second load is expected to make the three-week, 700-mile trip in September, said Bill Stephens, ConocoPhillips spokesman.

Each truckload will be 225 feet long, 29 feet wide and 26 feet high and weigh 300 tons, Stephens said.

ConocoPhillips and Emmert International, the company in charge of trucking the components, "are close to buttoning up" a few remaining details with the departments of transportation in Montana and Idaho, Stephens said.

The trucks will travel at night, mostly on back roads to avoid freeway overpasses and will travel no faster than 35 mph, Stephens said. The project requires the temporary relocation of about 800 utility lines.

"It's required a tremendous amount of planning," he said.

From Lewiston, the trucks will enter Montana over Lolo Pass on U.S. Highway 12, follow Interstate 90 and secondary roads to Garrison, then take U.S. 12 through Helena to Harlowton. The trucks will travel north on U.S. 191 to Lewistown and continue through the small towns of Hilger and Roy before turning south and traveling through Grass Range and Roundup on U.S. 87.

From Roundup, the trucks will go back west on U.S. 12 and Highway 3 and travel south into Billings.

In Billings, the drums will be used in a $50 million upgrade of the coker unit, which applies heat and pressure to heavier components of crude oil, converting them into more useful products.

The ConocoPhillips project is dwarfed by a plan to haul 200 huge loads of equipment from the Port of Lewiston through northwestern Montana to an oil sands operation in the Canadian province of Alberta.

Imperial Oil, whose parent company is ExxonMobil Canada, hopes to begin moving the equipment in October.

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