Thursday, December 01, 2005
There was some real heavy lifting going on along Lake Superior this week, as a crew unloaded the heaviest single piece of equipment to ever pass through the Port of Duluth.
Heavy-lift vessel, The StellaprimaOn Wednesday, workers at Lake Superior Warehousing Co. unloaded a 1.5 million pound ``hydro cracker'' a device that separates oil from sand. It is to be used in an oil sands project in Long Lake, Alberta. The hydro cracker arrived via the Stellaprima, a Dutch heavy-lift vessel that sailed the world gathering specially manufactured equipment for the oil extraction process. The ship also stopped in Japan, Malaysia, India, United Arab Emirates, Italy and the Netherlands before crossing the Atlantic Ocean bound for Duluth. Cranes lifted and swung the device toward shore while ballast water was pumped from chamber to chamber in the ship's hull to balance the heavy load. The massive steel reactor, with 4-inch-thick walls, was lowered onto a tension skid custom-built by BendTec Inc. of Duluth. Together, the skids, loading bars and reactor weigh 805 tons. The materials arrived in Duluth in July, and crews worked right up until Wednesday to prepare for the shipment. The device will be carried northwest by the largest railroad car in the world: the 36-axle Schnabel car. The reactor and tension skid will be lifted and suspended in the beak-like jaws of the $3.5 million Schnabel car. Officials with the oil sands project said Duluth ``has proven to be a successful route for moving this kind of equipment,'' said Ed Clarke, the logistics manager. It's the only port of its kind to offer relatively direct rail access to Alberta, he said.The Schnabel car has a sophisticated hydraulics system that allows cargo to be raised and lowered up to 3 feet and shifted side to side by as much as 2 feet. It's needed, Clarke said an underpass near Crookston has had clearances as little as three-quarters of an inch for previous equipment shipments. Rent for the train car is $1.2 million for 25 days, Clarke said.