GLEN DALE - In February, contractors moving the Williams Energy de-ethanizer "superload" needed West Virginia Division of Highways officials to move two street signs out of the way to make the 90-degree turn from W.Va. 2 onto W.Va. 86.
Movers needed no such help Sunday morning, as the second machine weighing in at a whopping 510,000 pounds and stretching 41 yards made the turn with no problems. This allowed the superload to steam onward into the heart of Marshall County through the afternoon. Officials hope to lead it to the Williams Oak Grove facility along Fork Ridge Road by Tuesday.
"They have improved since the last time," said Delegate David Evans, R-Marshall, one of about 50 interested observers gathered near the W.Va. 86 entrance in Glen Dale. "It is impressive, the way they can do this."
The de-ethanizer left the Benwood CSX rail yard at 8:30 a.m. Sunday onboard the special Goldhofer modular platform, which features 48 wheels that can each move and pivot in multiple directions, allowing maximum control. Piloting the Goldhofer by remote control, an operator walked in front of the machine that never exceeded 5 mph.
"I would not want to play that guy in a video game," said Wheeling resident Donna Deagle, who said she had to work when the first superload moved through Glen Dale in February. "He has to be good."
Glen Dale residents Pete Prettyman and Pete DiCrease said they support Marcellus and Utica shale development, such as the $4.5 billion Williams is investing in its three Marshall County sites: Oak Grove, Fort Beeler and south of Moundsville. Each plant plays a slightly different role in processing and refining methane, ethane, propane, butane and other forms of natural gas.
Photo by Casey Junkins/Taking up the entire roadway, the Williams Energy de-ethanizer “superload” steams ahead toward Sherrard along W.Va. 86 Sunday.
Williams uses the large de-ethanizers to extract valuable ethane, which is the building block for the plastics industry - and can be the feedstock to multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plants.
"Anything that brings jobs to this area is good for us," Prettyman said.
"This development is all good for our area," DiCrease added.
'BIG WHEELS KEEP ON TURNING'
Today, the "superload" is scheduled to travel south on W.Va. 88 to the intersection of U.S. 250. Turning left onto U.S. 250, West Virginia Division of Highways plans call for the superload to reach the area known as the McElroy substation along Fork Ridge Road by the end of the day.
Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Cecil joined the interested onlookers in Glen Dale, adding, "A lot of planning goes into this."
As the superload prepared to depart from Benwood, Delegate Michael Ferro, D-Marshall, joined several others in McMechen to watch the mammoth machine move down W.Va. 2.
"It really is amazing to see," he said.
As the de-ethanizer moved into The Narrows, it found the southbound lanes wide open for its use. Workers with the Division of Highways set up cones to allow one lane of traffic northbound and one southbound, allowing the superload to occupy both southbound lanes.
Once it made the turn onto W.Va. 86, the superload occupied both lanes, just as it did upon turning onto W.Va. 88 at Butch's Corner.
In February, Williams' first superload made such strong progress the first day that contractors moved it past the planned stopping point, placing it on W.Va. 88 in the Sherrard area at a time when it was not supposed to be there. Marshall County Schools Transportation Supervisor Dave Smith said this led to some students arriving home about two hours late when their bus got stuck behind the de-ethanizer. Williams spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said the company will make every effort to prevent this from happening again.
According to the DOH, these are the moving plans for the superload: