Giant cracker unit too big for bridge, heading through Corunna instead

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Mammoet Photo A giant catalytic cracking regenerator similar in size to the photo above, will take the long way to Shell Canada on the St. Clair Parkway to avoid a bridge south of Vidal Street. Engineers think the bridge would not bear the weight of the unit. Instead, it will be moved through Corunna on Hill Street this September.

Alex Kurial/Local Journalism Initiative

An oversized load will be forced to take an alternate route to its final destination over concerns of its gigantic mass crossing a local bridge.

Next month Shell will be sending a new fluid catalytic cracking regenerator to its manufacturing centre on the St. Clair Parkway. The unit weighs in at 311,800 pounds. Adding in the 70 foot long, 24 axel self-propelled modular transporter, the total weight jumps to 575,000 pounds.

Mammoet, who is moving the unit for Shell, says the sheer size of the vessel raised a serious engineering issue.

The regenerator is planned to enter the site at the main gate, south of Talfourd Creek Bridge on the St. Clair Parkway. That bridge is just 100 feet long and would have to absorb all 575,000 pounds at once.

And the bridge may not be able to bear the load.

Mammoet spokesman Dave Binkley says a study found the bridge is a “structure of great concern… putting these kind of forces through that.”

Coordinator of Operations Dave Neely says based on the engineering assessment, the bridge “might not be able to handle it.”

Another obstacle is the Talfourd Creek portion of bridge on Lasalle is under construction which would delay the move well into the fall.

The Ministry of Transportation is also reluctant to close Highway 40 for an extended period of time.

So, Mammoet officials went to St. Clair council for approval of an alternative route – right through Corunna.

The unit will wind its way down the back roads to avoid Highway 40, turn onto Hill Street and head right through Corunna before turning north on the parkway.

This raises plenty of other issues though including a necessary power outage.

Binkley says during a previous transport from the Lafarge Dock in Courtright to the NOVA expansion many people missed the Hydro One robocalls informing them of the outage.

“They got a lot of very not so nice phone calls of people and their power being cut off,” Binkley says of the feedback Hydro One received.

“They hadn’t listened to the robocall, they were scheduled to go to work the next morning, all of a sudden they sleep-in because their alarm clock resets.”

Binkley says since Hydro One couldn’t properly inform customers in the past, Mammoet will be renting construction signs along the route in the week prior to the move with a rolling message about the outage.

The Corunna section of the one day move will be done overnight to limit traffic issues.

The move, from the intersection of Hill Street and Polymoore Drive to the Shell gate, will take place between 11 pm to 4 am to limit disruption to residents through use of the roads and loss of power. The move is scheduled to take place Sept. 24 or 25.

Mammoet will be providing eight workers to assist with traffic control and Sarnia Police will provide a two-officer escort from start to finish.

“These things are big, it can catch someone off guard looking and staring at it,” says Binkley. “Having additional manpower on the road as we’re doing the transport keeps everybody safe and at a good distance.”

Council unanimously approved the route although Mayor Steve Arnold says compensation for the township seems light given the size of the move.

“I think it’s pretty pathetic that we’re going through the middle of our largest section of community with a vessel off the top of a transport deck and seeing a $1,200 permit fee, disrupting all four lanes through Corunna and then keeping the parkway closed no matter what time of day it is.”

“We do have fire emergency vehicles that might have to be called out and that road is blocked. There’s certain parts once you’re in it, they can’t get out of town unless you go up to Lasalle or down to Rokeby Line… I think that’s something for Shell to consider in the future, that the community commitment fund could use some help,” says Arnold.

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