Watch This 2 Million Pound 'Pressure Vessel' Travel Canada's 'Highway of Death'

Just where is this massive tube of metal headed? 

by Sam Blum

Video of a reportedly 2.08 million pound pressure vessel making a slow, lumbering traversal across a highway in Canada should force your mouth agape.

The sloth-like march of the glistening metallic tube took place on Alberta Highway 63, a thoroughfare responsible for shuttling trucks that carry large quantities of industrial machinery north toward the oil sands boomtown of Fort McMurray.

But what exactly is this hulking structure of metal meant for, other than looking big and imposing enough to warrant a smartphone video?

Basically, pressure vessels store different liquids, gases, and chemicals at a different pressure than the outside environment does, and for that rather general reason, they vary markedly in their sizes, shapes, and commercial/private uses. For example, a run-of-the-mill fire extinguisher is technically a “pressure vessel,” while the spherical containers of noxious chemicals you see at a power plant, also qualify.

For the purposes of the video above, it’s obvious that this particular pressure vessel is headed either directly to, or somewhere around, the Athabasca Oil Sands, near Fort McMurray. It’s a region teeming with rich bitumen deposits, or crude oil.

“Alberta produced an estimated average of 1.25 million barrels per day of crude bitumen in 2006 with a 300 percent increase in production anticipated by 2020,” according to a 2006 study compiled by the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Pressure Vessel Manufacturer’s Association.

To that end, this particular vessel is primed to be clogged full of crude oil once it’s fully equipped to aid in the process of oil refinement, but not without some hefty legislation authored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, regulating the process.

It may look calm and serene, but this video should illuminate a plethora of fatal disasters. Not only is the pressure vessel’s frame large enough to wipe out a city like a bowling ball does a set of pins, Highway 63 is known colloquially as Canada’s “Highway of Death,” because of the treacherous, icy conditions that freeze it over come winter time.

Given the precarious nature of Highway 63 (which Alberta’s government has taken pains to fix), fatal accidents are an all too familiar occurrence, even during summer months.

Luckily, the accidents on Highway 63 don’t involve oceans of crude oil and fiery infernos, because all oil sands are mandated to travel either by rail car, pipeline, or marine transport, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

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