Chevron's plan to move six massive coke drums within the next few weeks from Redondo Beach King Harbor to its El Segundo refinery isn't exactly as intriguing as the space shuttle Endeavour's fall trek across Los Angeles.
For three days, spectators lined the shuttle route to catch a glimpse of the retired orbiter creeping along atop a special transporter - a carefully planned trip that required crews to cut down hundreds of trees, de-energize power lines, move street signs and much more.
But the movement of Chevron's steel coke drums - which are part of a refinery process unit called a coker - will pose similar logistical challenges, given that they weigh 500,000 pounds apiece and will have to travel 4 1/2 miles through
And they're also big and bulky; the cylindrical drums measure 28 feet across and 100 feet long - just a bit shorter than the 122-foot space shuttle.
Set to start later this month, plans are in motion to trim trees, lift and remove power lines and get the word out about rolling road closures and detours.
"It's been a broadly coordinated effort. ... You don't do this very often," said Chevron spokesman Rod Spackman, whose company has been working with cities and police agencies, Southern California Edison and others to make the moves a reality. "There's quite an orchestrated movement that occurs in a process like this."
The new drums
Their replacements are sitting at the Port of Los Angeles, having recently made a 7,330-mile trip from Spain, where they were manufactured, aboard a speciality cargo vessel. Chevron plans to move them in pairs by barge to King Harbor's Mole B - a man-made land mass at the end of Marina Way - on Feb. 18 and 25 and March 4.
They'll be rolled off the barge the same day and placed onto self-propelled modular transporters that will carry the drums along Marina Way and Harbor Drive to Herondo Street and PCH. Here, each drum will be lifted onto a so-called California Dolly that meets state Department of Transportation standards.
Moving in pairs overnight starting on Feb. 20 and 27 and March 6, the drums will follow Herondo to Pacific Coast Highway and Sepulveda Boulevard, heading north through Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach aboard the transport vehicles that will include 32 axles and 128 wheels, with a truck in front and back for traction and braking. They'll be separated, but complete the move in tandem.
"I call it a rather sophisticated ballet," Spackman said.
In the final
Those inclined to watch the maneuvers - which should get started around 10 p.m. and last a couple hours on surface streets - will likely see "hundreds of people involved," Spackman said, including utility workers, police and heavy-hauling experts. Chevron, in fact, has hired some of the same companies involved in Endeavour's 12-mile road trip.
To get the word out, Chevron officials said they've sent 20,000 mailers to residents and plan to start running newspaper ads. They've also set up a website - bit.ly/14Axasd - and hotline, 310-615-5298.
With the first coke drum move just a few weeks out, prep work is under way.
Southern California Edison crews have been raising power lines and replacing poles in places to clear the path.
The utility Thursday offered a list of improvements that included replacing 10 permanent power poles and three temporary ones and raising overhead wires to 40 feet or higher above Pacific Coast Highway. On nights the drums are on the move, crews will turn the mast arms on lights by 90 degrees, making them parallel to the curb so that the drums can pass without problems.
The utility also said it has installed temporary lines at Ardmore Avenue and 21st Street in Hermosa Beach to reroute a power circuit.
"No one will be affected by a power outage," Edison regional manager Scott Gobble said.
Manhattan Beach expects that Chevron soon will begin trimming trees lining the north side of Rosecrans, along with melaleuca trees in the medians of Sepulveda Boulevard that may extend over the northbound lanes, said Richard Thompson, the city's community development director.
"It's going to require a certain amount of trimming to allow the drums to clear the path, but that's something we do anyway," he said. "No trees will be removed, but they will be trimmed."
Other fixes will be needed at Sepulveda and Rosecrans, and near the refinery entrance farther west at Rosecrans and Pacific Avenue, where workers are expected to remove and replace parts of the median.
In addition, Thompson said, Chevron will replace two Sepulveda Boulevard monument signs that got knocked down at the north and south entrances to town.
In Redondo Beach, the company has pledged $2.4 million for the design and construction of improvements envisioned for Mole B. Pete Carmichael, the city's waterfront and economic development manager, said the funding will pay for new outrigger canoe facilities and hardscape and landscape improvements to Moonstone Park.
Spackman said the company plans to reimburse each of the beach cities for public safety-related expenses associated with the moves.
He declined to reveal the project's full cost.
"It's an important effort and it's not inexpensive," he said, "and part of that is also ensuring that we minimize the impacts."
Once inside the refinery gates, the coke drums will be set into place by a large crane.
Spackman described them as "the heart of the coker unit," a thermal cracking unit that heats the heaviest components of crude to a high temperature, causing it to crack into lighter materials such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
As the light fuels boil off, a solid-coal like material called petroleum coke is left behind. It is shipped overseas from the Port of Los Angeles and used in heating and manufacturing in Europe and Asia.
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Find out more
The Chevron refinery plans to move six massive coke drums during three overnight moves - starting on Feb. 20 and 27 and March 6 - from Redondo Beach King Harbor to El Segundo. The moves will trigger road closures and detours. A hotline has been set up: 310-615-5298. For more details and to watch a simulation video, link to bit.ly/14Axasd.