“That actually hurts.”

Electricity was produced in Voerde for 47 years. STEAG’s largest power plant site to date has been shut down since April 1. Now the remaining employees are clearing out their former workplaces step by step – so that dismantling can begin.

The decision was inevitable: After RWE had registered the Voerde A/B units operated jointly with STEAG for closure in June 2016 due to the persistently difficult earnings situation for large fossil-fueled power plants, the STEAG management no longer saw any possibility of maintaining operation of the West 1 and 2 power plants in a commercially justifiable manner. At the beginning of November, the decision was taken to decommission the power plant on the Lower Rhine, one of the most efficient in Europe.

“We are now decommissioning the site step by step,” says Volker Veelmann. He has been the manager of the STEAG power plant in Bergkamen for one and a half years, and now has also been responsible for cleaning out the Voerde power plant site for three months. “It’s a strange feeling and hard for me as an engineer to bear. It was only in 2013 that we installed a completely new instrumentation and control system. This whole power plant is a state-of-the-art facility, and it actually hurts.”

But the decommissioning decision is irrevocable. The plant was shut down: All the liquids required for operation, such as ammonia and heating oil, were drained from pipes and vessels and disposed of professionally. The lime silos in the flue gas desulphurization (FGD) system were emptied. All fire loads such as coal dust and other flammable substances were disposed of in accordance with the regulations. “Meanwhile, the systems containing hazardous substances have all been emptied and cleaned,” says Dirk Iländer, who is responsible for these work processes. “An official inspection in accordance with the Ordinance on Plant for the Handling of Substances Hazardous to Water has already taken place. Now there is only the final cleaning work on the flue gas desulphurization system to be done.”

All parts are checked for further usability.
Work is also still in progress at the other end of the former process chain: A large part of the approximately 14,000 metric tons of hard coal stored on the site and until recently used to fuel the power plant units has already been transported to the Bergkamen power plant at the eastern periphery of the Ruhr region, which is almost 90 kilometers away,” explains Dirk Angrick, whose responsibilities include plant engineering at Voerde. “And not by truck, but by barges directly from our yard on the Rhine to the jetty of the Datteln-Hamm canal at the Bergkamen power plant.”

“It’s a strange feeling and hard for me as an engineer to bear. It was only in 2013 that we installed a completely new instrumentation and control system. This whole power plant is a state-of-the-art facility, and it actually hurts.”

Volker Veelmann, Manager of the STEAG power plant in Bergkamen

At the same time, the components of the plant in Voerde are being inspected to determine whether they can be used at other power plants, because there are common parts in every power plant. That is Claus-Wilhelm Heuser’s job. “Generator transformers, back-up batteries, electronic components for I&C systems – everything is removed here, tested, then installed in other STEAG power plants, kept on stock as a spare or put up for sale,” explains the STEAG engineer, who accompanies interested parties looking at plants and recyclable parts at the site.

In this way, the former workplace of 297 employees is being dismantled piece by piece. Volker Veelmann’s team will still need a few more months. Then the Voerde power plant site will finally be history.