The Industrial Area of Espenhain

   For more than fifty years, brown-coal (lignite) has been mined and processed in the area south of Leipzig. As in other parts of central Germany, due to natural occurrences and conditions such as a relatively high tar content, the land here is particularly appropriate for thermal and chemical processing.

   In order to be independent from foreign oil, the production of fuel from brown coal was developed during the days of the Third Reich. In these autocratic times, between 1935 and 1942, the brown-coal processing plant in Espenhain and another part of the plant in Böhlen were erected.

   Initially, airplane fuel was produced in the smouldering plant and related Systems in Böhlen built in 1935. In comparison to fuel available on the world market, however, this synthetic fuel was not competitive.
   Another smouldering plant was built in Espenhain between 1940 and 1942.

   After the "LURGI-Spülgas" process briquettes of coal would be smouldered and then completely processed in additional systems, including industrial power stations. Through the combination of power station, briquette production, and smouldering and the resultant coupling of energy forms, this industrial complex presented itself as a technological leader, one-of-a-kind in Europe (scheme of production). In addition to electricity and heat, chemicals were extracted, for example, tar and light oil, which could be reused in other parts of the plant. At that time, Espenhain and Böhlen worked mainly to supply fuel for the German Navy and Air Force.

   As an important wartime industry, beginning in 1944, the plants were badly damaged by British and American bombing raids. Over 3.000 bombs were dropped on the industrial works. In April 1945, the Americans took control of the district of Borna and thereby the Espenhain works. In July the Russians took control of this area.

   One year later, the plants --which, in the meantime, had been rebuilt-- came under the Soviet commander's control and became a Soviet company (until January 1954). After the rebuilding, Espenhain produced many more things than were anticipated when the plants were originally laid out.

   During the time from 1945 until July 1990, the production concentrates in large measure upon "Schwelteer" (a tar product distilled from brown coal). From this were produced "Elektrodenkoks" and "Schmieröl" (coke and oil products) in other chemical plants.

   During the time of highest capacity the Espenhain and Böhlen works produced annually:
brown coal briquettes ca. 10 million tons
coke ca. 4 million tons
gas ca. 2 billion cubic mtrs
tar ca. 900 kt
light oil ca. 250 kt
sulfur ca.70 kt
phenol ca. 55 kt
pyridine ca. 1100 t

   Furthermore electricity and steam were produced in both Espenhain industry power plants (with an installed capacity of 670 MW/h).

   After about 1966 or 1967, with the orientation of the economy toward petrochemicals (as a result of cheap oil), the production Systems, which had already been extensively expanded in the 50's, were run with careless abandon.

   Then, in the early 1970's, carbo-chemicals regained some of their importance. Now, no matter what the circumstances, production was increased. The overworked, fifty-years old (in part) systems polluted the environment in staggering measure. Critically necessary investment was absent. The result was that the carbo-chemical industry requires more and more state support, and the damaging emissions continued to increase. The extreme air and water pollution led to protests in the 1980's, as Christian citizen movements demanded the shut-down of the entire carbo-chemical industry.

   The end of socialism in the former German Democratic Republic brought consequences for the Espenhain works as well. On February 8, 1990 the "Ministerrat der DDR" (the council of ministers) decided that all carbo-chemical Systems should be closed. By that decision, Espenhain was to go out of operation by December 1991, but the times outran this decision: on August 27, 1990, the last smoulder-oven was shut down.