Alberta Flexes Transportation Muscle
By Marek Krasuski
TIf there is any region of this country that can boast impressive transportation and engineering feats the province of Alberta would be sure to top the list. It recently flexed its transportation muscle on January 6th when the largest load to ever hit Alberta’s roads began its four day sojourn from Edmonton to a petrochemical plant near Fort Saskatchewan. The cargo was an enormous steel tube called a Splitter. The Splitter will separate Propylene from propane. Propylene is used in the manufacture of plastics for chairs, computer parts, and many other products. It took four days to deliver the Splitter to Inter Pipeline’s $3.5 billion petrochemical development project some 125 kilometres from Edmonton, normally a one hour drive.
To lend perspective to the size of the cargo and complexity of the trip, the Splitter weighs 800,000 kilograms, heavier than 50 school buses, and is the length of a football field, or as long as London’s Big Ben clock and taller than the Statue of Liberty. The trip took a year of planning by the City of Edmonton to coordinate the route and make all preparations such as determining how the weight of the gargantuan carbon steel tube-like structure would be distributed. City officials stated that “the load included added trailers and tires to distribute the weight more evenly, which mitigates any risk of damage to the road. The potential threat to damaging the roads would have been no different than the movement of a regular truck,” officials concluded. But just in case the transportation company will be responsible for any damages to roads and infrastructure. That’s was likely not to happen since 832 tires were used to hold the several floats that absorbed the weight of the Splitter; a total of 932 tires supported both trailers and several trucks to haul the oversized load which was as wide as both highway lanes, including the shoulders.
In a climate of falling oil prices and layoffs the project marked a symbolic boom for Albertans anxious to hear some good news for a change. Flanked by company reps from Dacro Industries, makers of the Splitter, and Inter Pipeline, a petroleum transportation company, Alberta’s Transportation Minister, declared with obvious pride “It’s all Alberta. It’s constructed in Alberta. It’s moved by Albertans. It’s going to an Alberta company. I understand about 80 per cent of all the materials going into these vessels are sourced from right here. That’s very impressive. I’m very proud of that.”
The Splitter took a full year to build for the Heartland Petrochemical Complex which is being built just outside of Fort Saskatchewan. Heartland is a $3.5 billion development project owned by Inter Pipeline and is scheduled for completion in 2021. Also commenting on the significance of the project Inter Pipeline said, “At the heart of the complex this tower will represent a new wave of industrial innovation and economic stimulation in Alberta. Once complete in late 2021 the Heartland Petrochemical Complex is scheduled to be Canada’s first integrated propane dehydrogenation and polypropylene facility.”☚