Three days over Shanxi

One of the few things I would really miss without internet are the aerial photos from various sources that can be used nowadays quite conveniently. Since 2009 (Vs. 5) Google Earth Pro offers the possibility to load historical aerial images. Although the quality of the images varies greatly and only recent history is covered, they are often very helpful. So I recently went on a flight over Shanxi, China’s largest coalfield. Shanxi, not to be confused with the adjoining Shaanxi province to the west, is about twice the size of Bavaria. Coal mining takes place in practically all parts of the province. From large open pits in the northwest to countless drift mines and deep mines.Despite the Corona winter I quickly buried the plan to mark all the mines I saw, because there are too many, and anyway it’s only mining, not my core business. So I focussed on coking plants. Shanxi is Chinas largest coke producer so I thought there must be some.
I found 260 on the aerial photos taken between 2008 and 2013 (there were still five coking plants in Germany in 2008), and these are only the larger plants, the traditional beehive ovens, which must have still existed at that time, despite the ban, are barely visible on aerial photos.

That China has made enormous efforts in the last 10 years to get its environmental problems under control which is evident from the fact that 146 of the approximately 260 coking plants that were still visible in Shanxi in 2008 have by now been shut down. With it’s remaining 114 plants (and I’m sure I’ve overlooked a few), Shanxi produces 20 % of China’s coke (2019), which in turn accounts for 60 % of the world’s production.
As in many communist economies, the core aggregates of the heavy industry are often standardized in China.
Very typical, for example, are stamp charged coking plants (relatively easy to recognize by the coal tower standing next to the batteries) with two batteries and 4.3 meter furnaces. In these plants, even low-grade coals can be processed into usable blast furnace coke by precompression.
But there are ultra modern facilities too like the one in Xiangfen (65).  The only coke plant I have ever seen with dust removal sheds on both the coke and pusher sides of the batteries
About half of the coking plants in Shanxi were top loaders (and apparently there were also combined plants) of older or newer design. 25 plants used non recovery ovens in which no by-products are produced.
Very few Chinese coking plants are attached to coal mines (as was common in Germany), some are operated by the larger steel mills, but by far the majority are stand-alone operations.
What is really remarkable is the fact that most of the coking plants do not have a rail connection. The entire supply and disposal of coal, coke and by-products at these plants is handled by trucks.

If you are interested you can download the KMZ file for Google Earth with the coking plant locations in Shanxi here: Shanxi Coking Plants.KMZ
In case this program is not familiar: You can import the KMZ file directly (under File), the historical aerial photos can then be found under the 7th icon from the left in the menu bar (clock symbol).
Decommissioned coking plants have a red icon. Sometimes it was not quite clear whether the plant was already closed down, but if the pusher cars hadn’t changed position for years and the coal yard was empty I assumed that the place was dead.
Since most of the plants in Shanxi disappear quickly after they are shut down, the region is not very productive for the Urbex scene (is there one in China ?).However, some plants seem to be preserved (e.g. 212,211,128,136,194,235). Two stand apparently unfinished as malinvestments (251,252).
If you find any other coking plants please let me  know, but beware those aerials can be a bit addictive.

皇帝 椅子

© RVR, 1998, dl-de/by-2-0

As is well known, the Kaiserstuhl coking plant in Dortmund, Germany was shut down 20 years ago, after only eight years of operation, and sold to China.
There, in the mining province of Shandong, the plant was rebuilt and put back into operation in 2006.
Rumor has it (e.g., Peter Liszio in “Der Kokshochofen”, 2015) that it was already shut down again in 2012 after major start-up problems.

© Google, CNES/Airbus 2021

That seemed a bit surprising to me. So I did a little research on this plant and indeed Kaiserstuhl still exists. The plant was even modernized again in 2019.
And as before, the coke dry cooling device is still more of a decorative nature.

Aviles Coking Plant shut down.


Already on 30 September 2019, ArcelorMittal shut down the last two (3&4) of eight batteries  at it’s Aviles coking plant in Spain.
The coking plant had been built from 1951 onwards as part of an economic programme; Franco’s dream of an industrialized Spain.
With it’s closure, the last major unit of the once state-owned steel group ENSIDESA will disappear.
The plant had 8 batteries of 30 ovens each and was planned and built by Didier-KOGAG-Hinselmann, an engineering company from Essen. It supplied coke to the finally four blast furnaces in Aviles (which have since been demolished).
In 1973, the state-owned ENSIDESA took over the neighbouring private steelworks UNINSA in Gijon. The coking plant there is also currently shut down, so that the last active blast furnace (furnace A) in Spain has to be supplied with imported coke. It is therefore questionable whether and when blast furnace B will be restarted.

RAG-Kokerei Hassel

Batterien 1&2

Vor 20 Jahren, am 29.9.1999, wurde die RAG-Kokerei in Gelsenkirchen-Hassel stillgelegt.
Die Anlage war der erste Kokereineubau nach dem Krieg in der BRD. 1953 wurden zwei Batterien mit jeweils 55 Koksöfen in Betrieb genommen. Bis 1957 wurden weitere fünf Batterien zu je 30 Öfen gebaut.
Die Anlage hatte damit eine Kapazität von 4500 t Koks (6000 t Kohle) täglich.
Mitte der 1980er Jahre wurde wg. der schwachen Stahlkonjunktur die Batterie 4 mit 30 Öfen stillgesetzt. 1989 stellte man drei Batterien auf die Produktion von Gießereikoks um.
Die Batterien 3,5,6 und 7 wurden dann im Oktober 1993 heruntergefahren.
Seit dem produzierten nur noch die Batterien 1 und 2 mit 110 Öfen Gießereikoks und Ruhrkoks für den Wärmemarkt.
Mit der Schließung der Kokerei Hassel wurde die Produktion von Gießereikoks in Deutschland eingestellt.

Batterien 3-7

Kokerei Kaiserstuhl

Kokerei Kaiserstuhl

These days the last remains (coking coal tower, dry quenching facilities) of the coking plant Kaiserstuhl in Dortmund, Germany are knocked down.
The plant was built in 1992 to be the most modern coke making facility in Europe.
It supplied coke to the nearby Hoesch blast furnaces. The plant inluded two coke oven batteries of 60 furnaces each, and both a dry and a wet quenching facility.
When ThyssenKrupp announced the closure of it’s (former Hoesch) blast furnaces Kaiserstuhl was shut down after being in operation for just eigth years .
Ten years ago most of  the mill was dismantled and rebuilt in the Shandong province, China.
This relocation was documented in the exiting movie Losers And Winners.
Further images of this plant at Stahlseite.



Coking Plant Zdzieszowice

Lots of change over the last ten years at Europe’s largest coking plant in

in Zdzieszowice, Poland.
The works were built in 1930 by the German mining company Gräflich Schaffgottsche Werke.
The design of the first coke oven batteries no.1&2 was carried out by the famous German industrial architects Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer.Both batteries were installed by the Still company.
In between 1962 and 1968 batteries 3-6 were commissioned by a Russian manufacturer. All of the six batteries now existing were stamp charged.
In 1972 a second strand of top charged batteries (7-10) was installed one kilometer south of the existing one.These ovens were built by a Polish company.
From 2002 to 2004 batteries 7&8 were completly rebuilt and batteries 9&10 were abandoned.
In between 2006 to 2008 two new batteries(11&12)  were built west of  battery no. 7 by the Zarmen company  from Poland.
Immediatly after the old batteries no. 1&2 were closed down and dismantled in 2010. Batteries 9&10 were torn down in 2011.
Some new images at Stahlseite.