An extremely long haul

25 April 2008

When the stacked heat exchangers reached the Canadian border Emmert modified the trailer's frame and

When the stacked heat exchangers reached the Canadian border Emmert modified the trailer's frame and dolly system from 18 to 16 feet wide to meet regulations in Alberta

The temperature was a muggy 96 °F (37 °C) the day crews from Emmert International left Houston, Texas to begin the 2,900 mile (4,640 km) journey to deliver two identical stacked 626,000 pound (284 tonne) heat exchangers to a location in Canada. According to plan, the cargo would arrive some 29 days later in Edmonton, Alberta, where a blinding blizzard was swirling and temperatures were in the -49 °F (-45 °C) range. The story of this project was one of extremes.

The route spanned the geographies of one continent, two countries and five states. The most difficult part of this project took place months before the actual transport. “Our first step was to contact authorities in Alberta, Canada to see if our conceptual design and equipment could even be used in the Canadian province,” says Roy Emmert, vice president. After two months of negotiating with authorities Emmert's route plan through that country was approved.

Next, the planning team worked to devise a route through the US states of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and then on to Canada. The permitting process was complicated and required permitting and logistics approval from scores of governmental entities involved along the route.

The heat exchangers weighed 626,000 pounds (284 tonnes) and were 17 feet 6 inches tall and 22 feet 6 inches wide (5.3 x 6.9 m). Emmert used custom-built wooden saddles to support the stacked heat exchangers on the trailer, which was designed and configured to 18 feet (5.5 m) wide to meet US regulations but the configuration for the US would not work in Canada, where the standard for hauls is 14 feet (4.3 m) wide.

Realising the dilemma, the Alberta Transportation Department accepted a configuration that was 2 feet (600 mm) wider than the norm. When the stacked heat exchangers reached the Canadian border Emmert modified the trailer's frame and dolly system from 18 to 16 feet (5.5 to 4.9 m) wide. To do this, Emmert designed and built a frame to allow the dollies to be moved inward 2 feet. Custom dolly steering bars were also installed during the configuration change to increase the stability of the trailer and the load.

According to Emmert, this may have been the first load ever approved and transported in Alberta using a 16 foot wide trailer configuration on dollies. In addition to the logistics to meet governmental requirements, the route presented constant challenges, including rugged terrain, railroad crossings, steep grades, and sharp turns.

Freezing temperatures were an obstacle in the northern US states and Canada. The convoy ran into two blizzards where visibility was low, and when temperatures dipped, it became crucial to maintain the nitrogen purge on the vessels. During the last part of the trip, engines on the transport vehicles had to run continuously in the sub-zero temperatures to prevent the hydraulic oil and other fluids from freezing.

At the destination in Edmonton, the stacked heat exchangers were off-loaded to the client's staging area. Emmert's team estimated that the job required 800 hours of engineering and 1,500 hours of planning and coordination for a total of 5,250 hours. •

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