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ECVB Powerplant, Langerbrugge, Belgium, November 2019

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HughieD

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1. The History
Back in the 1900’s, many Belgian villages were still lit using petroleum lamps, as electricity hadn’t been made available. By 1913, many of these had been updated to Kerosene lamps. Two years earlier in 1911 Baron Floris Van Loo started to build the first power plant in Langerbrugge in the canal area of Ghent in Belgium. It was completed in 1913 and included administrative buildings and official residences, designed by Brussels architect Eugène Dhuicque. The power plant was named the Centrales Électriques des Flandres et du Brabant or CEFB of Langerbrugge (the Dutch name was Elektrische Centralen voor Vlaanderen in Brabant hence the initials ECVB. It went into service in June 1914. Shortly after, during World War I, the turbine room amongst was damaged and the Germans had destroyed a large part of the overhead transmission equipment, cut underground cables and stolen equipment from sub-stations during their retreat. Incredibly, within a month of regaining possession, the plant was supplying power again.

During 1919-1924, the power plant saw a huge increase in generating capacity. New boilers were installed. In 1930, engineer Leopold Herry installed a boiler called “Benson” named after its inventor, Mark Benson. Its vaporized water at the temperature of 374 ° and thanks to this advance in thermodynamics, the cost per kWh was lowered. The 1950’s saw difficult years for the power plant. After economic recovery from the war, the price of coal increased dramatically, due to the Suez Crisis. Belgian Plants had the reputation for burning the lowest quality fuels in the world with use of fuel oil and ‘Pitch’ was introduced. In 1956 the Sociétés Reunis d’Energie du Bassin de l’Escaut (EBES) was formed. This incorporated CEFB and three other power plants.

By 1960, there was an inevitability that there would be a need for fewer electricity suppliers in Belgium. Hence, in March 1961, an agreement was signed by Ebes and Intercom to split up distribution areas to avoid conflict. However, these agreements were not rubber stamped and the two companies failed to agree on minute detail. This issue came back around in November 1974. Under pressure from political authorities, an agreement was reached that three large companies would be created. Company ‘A’ would be the already established Ebes, Company ‘B’ would be the result of the merger between Intercom and Interbrabant, and finally Company ‘C’ would be an amalgamation of Electrogaz, UCE-Linalux-Hainaut, of Esmalux, Gas de Namur and industry Ebes of Oisquercq.

A boiler and a back-pressure steam turbine alternator (Group 20), launched in 1974 to supply the paper mills of Langerbrugge, and a gas turbine with alternator and a recovery boiler with after burning (Group 30). In 1986, the Museum Energeia opened on the power plant site. This housed preserved steam engines and steam turbines in the exhibitions, as well as documents and books from the period of 1900-1960. This museum was open to the public and proved quite popular initially.

In 1990, a merger took place to form Electrabel, incorporating Ebes, Intercom and UNERG. While Intercom and Ebes were absorbed completely in the new company, UNERG contributed its electricity production and transmission business, and then changed its name to Powerfin. In 2000, it was decided to close the Museum Energeia. The production of electricity at the plant stopped a year later in 2001, after a new power plant was built. The production of steam and water for heating the district was seen as outdated and more effective methods were implemented. A small part of this power station remained active, still giving everyday power to some surrounded industries until its abandonment in 2009. In 2012 the beginning of the demolition of the older buildings which were completely destroyed commenced. The dismantling of the more modern buildings started, along with extensive removal of asbestos. Whist some of the documents from the museum we removed, the remaining paperwork and equipment was left behind. Unfortunately, thieves looted the museum, destroying the exhibits and stripping them of copper, including the 1912 Compound Steam Engine. The Brown Boveri turbines were dismantled and stripped of copper as well. The building is now protected but was cleared of all internal fixtures in 2015 and has been empty since.

2. The Explore
A bit late to the party with this one as it is long past its best. There are plenty of reports up on the site of when the plant included all of its internal workings still. Despite this, the building still merits a visit even if it is now a shell. Hence on a crisp November morning I set off from the middle of Ghent for the short 20-minute drive up to the plant. Access was pretty easy, and I spent a very enjoyable hour taking pictures in the early morning sun. The main turbine is still in situ as is the control room but neither can be accessed easily. The metal stairway right up to the top of the building is still there but given I was on my own I let discretion be the better part of valour.

3. The Pictures

Externally it is a fine building:

49106481767_057822007e_b.jpgElectrabel 12 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49101841348_d794d897b6_b.jpgimg4347 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49102356416_9e40331131_b.jpgimg4341 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49101846123_8290f3bf67_b.jpgimg4340 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49101849908_75c8ce000f_b.jpgimg4336 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Bit of old plant rusting away:

49102359911_f994423ce2_b.jpgimg4338 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49101842188_be5ffa5d26_b.jpgimg4345 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Chimney climb anyone?

49101840548_735bafd817_b.jpgimg4350 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49102351731_44ab21a578_b.jpgimg4351 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Inside a lonely turbine remains:

49106296836_4b2e7f53b1_b.jpgElectrabel 11 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49106301556_b0691f254a_b.jpgElectrabel 01 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49102560397_ea44fe85cc_b.jpgimg4331 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49102561222_85c4d6f0a6_b.jpgimg4330 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49102367426_f0fc6aa762_b.jpgimg4329 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Even empty, the interior is impressive:

49106483732_a5b1b2a32b_b.jpgElectrabel 08 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49106484092_f9f0fa681a_b.jpgElectrabel 07 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49102364076_12503c28a7_b.jpgimg4334 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Former control room:

49102563537_dc8cff6676_b.jpgimg4328 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Nice bit of graff:

49106483407_2d2c06d3af_b.jpgElectrabel 09 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Like a scene out of Bladerunner:

49106482777_2ba3f2ea36_b.jpgElectrabel 10 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49106299201_72066c4dc3_b.jpgElectrabel 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49105791723_7c2d6952c3_b.jpgElectrabel 05 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49106300156_9e82b5187d_b.jpgElectrabel 04 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49105793203_f1960abe55_b.jpgElectrabel 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The stairway of doom:

49101859188_178f75fdab_b.jpgimg4322bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

49101863303_3bb71cb841_b.jpgimg4315 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49102567347_30d01217bf_b.jpgimg4321 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49102568537_a82c182bd6_b.jpgimg4317 by HughieDW, on Flickr
 

wolfism

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Real shame so much has been stripped and demo'd - ECVB was one of the explores of the decade, IMHO. The museum part was totally fascinating. Nice shots though, the winter sunlight animates it.
 
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