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Wet processing unit

                               

Schwarze Pumpe


Book project, 2005
Published by Vattenfall Europe Mining & Generation,
Edited by Prof. Markus Otto, Lars Scharnholz (INIK)
Institute for New Industrial Culture, Forst


15 years ago I travelled frequently through the opencast lignite-mining area in the south of Brandenburg. One hot Sunday I arrived in a place called »Schwarze Pumpe«. At that time, it was better known – at least, to me – for its football team, which was the factory-team of the biggest lignite processing plant in Germany, »Schwarze Pumpe Combine«. Since the industrial area was closed to the public, I continued my journey.
At the beginning of 2005, the Institute for New Industrial Culture in Forst (INIK) asked me, if I would like to take photographs for a book about »Schwarze Pumpe«. It was to be published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the laying of the first foundation stone. At that time I was still working on my long-term documentation of »Horno«, a village, which had to make way for an opencast lignite mine and at that moment in time was almost completely razed to the ground. For this reason it appeared to be interesting to get an insight into another perspective concerning the lignite industry, namely the perspective of the people working in »Schwarze Pumpe«.
50 years ago, the planning team had met in a guesthouse called »Schwarze Pumpe«, which was close to the intended building zone, fields and a pine forest. The main criterion for the choice of this site was the fact that there was no coal seam beneath it. Any village that had ever to give way to opencast mining in this region would have dearly wished to have had the same geological feature.

When I entered the combine area many of its buildings were empty, or had already been demolished. I quickly found my orientation, however, since the street grid was similar to that in New York. The streets running north-south were numbered; those running east-west were lettered. There was still a briquette factory with a primary crusher, and wet- and dry-processing units was dehydrated. The high-moisture coal processed here, has 55% water content, There were huge factory workshops for the repairing of machines and railway engines from the nearby opencast mines, as well as a new power station outside the combine area. The production of gas, together with the production of briquettes, was the primary reason for development of the combine, which had been adapted to gas production from residual materials. The Swedish state-owned mining concern Vattenfall intends to build a »CO2-free« pilot power station at »Schwarze Pumpe« in the future, which would apply the still contentious CCS technology (carbon capture and storage) that is based on the separation of CO2 during the production of electricity from lignite and its geological storage beneath the earth's surface or the seabed. The future of this process is still written in the stars. In the meantime, enormous quantities of CO2 are discharged into the air by »normal« lignite-based power plants, and opencast lignite mines continue to destroy the countryside, villages and even conservation areas.