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Report - Rio Tinto Alcan Aluminium Smelter, Lynemouth - Feb 13'.

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by Boba Low, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. Boba Low

    Boba Low ____/
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    ...And so it came to be that primary aluminium production left the UK's shores forever, another process moved abroad at our own cost.

    DrHowser and I started talking about this at the beginning of the year. AJ and Horus did a fantastic job hitting this last year, and we know they had enough of a time trying to evade workers around the ring furnaces that they did well to come away unscathed with pictures! Speculation at the time there would be nothing left worth seeing. I felt otherwise, and Howser was inclined to agree. It takes longer than a year to completely flatten a site on this scale and magnitude! We decided to pay it a visit.

    Driving up to Lynemouth in the evening, the first thing we noticed was that there were lights on. Excellent. Not the whole site, but definitely a large portion of it. Security were noticeably present as a car could be heard, and walls would temporarily light up as the headlights went past. There were cameras fucking everywhere. Our best hope was to get over the fence (a task in itself, for much of the length of site the fence is doubled up palisade with barbed wire on top and a drainage ditch between the two), and get inside as quick as possible.

    Visited on 2 seperate occassions, the first with DrHowser, the second saw Tweek getting in on the industrial carnage.

    Big UK industry. Heavy. Lights on.

    Pot Lines

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    The basis for all modern primary aluminium smelting plants is the Hall-Héroult Process, invented in 1886. Alumina is dissolved in an electrolytic bath of molten cryolite (sodium aluminium fluoride) within a large carbon or graphite lined steel container known as a "pot". An electric current is passed through the electrolyte at low voltage, but very high current, typically 150,000 amperes. The electric current flows between a carbon anode (positive), made of petroleum coke and pitch, and a cathode (negative), formed by the thick carbon or graphite lining of the pot.

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    There are four of these sheds in parallel, perhaps a Km long, each containing 2 rows of these. They are the main event onsite, so to speak, and they stand at just over twice the average human height. The smelting takes place inside at about 900°C, but once formed the aluminium has a melting point of only 660°C, making recycling much easier and more cost- effective than production. Sadly, for 3/4 of the length of the sheds, the lights were off.

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    We noticed after a while the ground was becoming 'crunchy' underfoot. Shavings of raw solidified aluminium literally covered the floor. Under the pots we found some really large lumps too. Imagine this place in action, spitting liquid metal all over the shop. Epic.

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    We made our way down the potlines towards the end where the lights were clearly still on, marching in pitch darkness past rows of huge pots. Awesome vehicles were left all over the place. This buggy was down a corridor we dashed past, but it was only a momentary stop and snap. I wanted lit up pots.

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    Sadly, it wasn't to be. Where they'd left the lights on was where they had been working. The pots were gone but the space was still very interesting, revealing some of the complexity disguised by the pot cases.

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    On our first visit, we climbed down into the gaps left by missing pots, and into the 'tunnels' under the potlines. This is deceptive because whilst it feels to all intents and purposes like you're in a tunnel, it's actually on the ground floor and open to the elements. If security drove past, they'd see you.

    Under the Potlines

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    Chimney Exhaust

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    Raw Materials Storage

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    I liked the lights in here, noticing them on my first visit. On the second, I took a two minute solo mission to get a picture. Probably shouldn't have bothered! Bad framing, dust on the lens... Still like the light though.

    Anode Plant

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    Up until now we'd known what to expect, having done our research on the smelting process before. However, the anode plant contained much that was new to us, and was altogether a nice surprise that I hadn't really considered. The site produced its own anodes as they erode during smelting and need replacing, at which time they are recycled.

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    It was whilst we were in here that we had our closest call of the night. A loud engine was heard approaching rapidly, and we all piled under some machinery waiting for the guy to drive off. He hung around momentarily but was soon on his way, as were we.

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    This is the conveyor in what I believe is known as the Green Mix tower, we went further up but it became less photogenic.

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    Anode Bath Control

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    Ring Furnaces

    This is where the anodes would be baked in pits roughly 3 metres deep after the raw materials had been mixed and shaken into blocks. The Lynemouth site had 2 state of the art ring furnaces, worth a cool £17 million each.

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    Taken from atop the gantry cab, was a dirty old mission getting up there and then I go and waste it all on a wonky ass soft shot like this! Meh.

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    It was in here, conveniently, that we all decided we'd seen enough and it was time to bail. We'd worked our way through maybe 3/4 of the site in a horseshoe, ending up at the end we'd entered but on the wrong corner. Stepping outside, it was safe to assume we were on camera the whole way out so it was time for The Walk. You might be familiar with it, it's way better than running... Chest out. Shoulders back. Try your utmost to believe you're supposed to be there. Ok, now climb that fence and run away. What a place!

    Final notes, we were surprised and delighted at how intact the site still is, a year into decommissioning, but things have picked up a bit now, a lot disappeared between our visits. Security are clearly on the ball, we didn't get caught but were constantly on our guard, as there's enough noise onsite that you can't pick an engine or motor out until it's halfway up the site towards you. We didn't run into workers either, but were sure at least on our first visit they were there, the usual loud banging and angle grinding sounds being our indicators.

    Cheers for reading!

    Shouts to Howser and Tweek.
     
    #1 Boba Low, Mar 21, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
    tweek likes this.

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  2. Renrutt

    Renrutt Turnerr
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    Yes boys, that is the shit.
     
  3. goan

    goan Chatbox Retard
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    Nice, thought most of this would be gone! Good work, 1 gold star each
     
  4. Bugsuperstar

    Bugsuperstar Irresponsible & Reckless
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    Spot on that.
     
  5. Mr Beady

    Mr Beady Over 8
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    Mint this! Props to those who did it
     
  6. Adders

    Adders living in a cold world
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    Some of that lighting is phenomenal, incredible photos thanks for sharing.
     
  7. drhowser

    drhowser Bespectacled & irrelevant
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    Absolutely banging! Loved sneaking round here.

    You've not left much for me to post, but I'll sling a few up after work! :D
     
  8. Boba Low

    Boba Low ____/
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    Nonsense, your shots are sickening get them all up sunshine!
     
  9. tweek

    tweek Huddersfield Tourist Information Board
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    People will be yearning for some digital pics Howser...

    ...here's some more 35mm from me.

    Alcan

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    Big up the firestarters,

    tweek
    :Not Worthy
     
  10. Leeds(Ex)plorer

    Leeds(Ex)plorer 28DL Regular User
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    :Not Worthy
    love this guys

    pure industrial porn
     
  11. Adders

    Adders living in a cold world
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    Most definitely not! Epic-sized industry on 35mm is statistically better than 90% of porn.
     
    tweek likes this.
  12. Camera Shy

    Camera Shy Old enough to know better
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    Proper industry. Fantastic stuff lads.
     
  13. tweek

    tweek Huddersfield Tourist Information Board
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    Pot. Lines.

    Two of my favourite things combined.
     
  14. The Stig

    The Stig Urbex = Nosey Bastard
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    Only one?? this is worth a merit badge each in my eyes :)

    The mutts nuts there lads, cheers for sharing :) making get off my fat lazy arse now to go and have a look around :p:
     
  15. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    Liking this a lot, good work to the max...
     
    tweek likes this.
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