The energy question is the main driving force of technical development. This is especially true for the iron and steel industry, where energy sources such as steam, gas and electricity are used on a large scale. With the possibility of using surplus blast furnace gases through the large gas engine, the end of the steam age in the iron and steel industry seemed to have come at the end of the 19th century. Just as the steam engine had played a key role in the "Industrial Revolution", the large-scale gas engine played a predominant role in supplying energy to the iron and steelworks for more than half a century. In the years between 1890 and 1900, only one-fifth of blast furnace gas continued to be used in the smelting industry.
The general introduction and widespread use of large gas engines, one of the most important and revolutionary innovations in the iron and steel industry in the first third of the 20th century, was the temporary culmination of a technological development that had begun in the middle of the 19th century. The large gas engine was a further development of the gas engine, in the research and construction of which Hugo Junkers of the Berlin-Anhaltinische Maschinenbau AG in Dessau played a decisive role.
On the following pages you can learn more about the construction and operation of the gas engine centre and its importance for Maxhütte, whose energetic heart it was for many years of its active operation.
In 1921, the supervisory board decided to expand Maximilianshütte Unterwellenborn into a mixed operation. The construction of the industrial power plant Gasmaschinenzentrale in accordance with the conditions in the area surrounding the Maxhütte and for the expected volume of production became an important part of the expansion measures. With the construction of the gas machine centre, the blast furnace blast furnace gas produced as a by-product was to be used cost-effectively for energy generation.
On 2 November 1921 the 3 MAN machines for the blast furnace wind supply and on 28 November the 4 Thyssen machines for the steelworks wind supply and electrical power generation were ordered. At this time, gas engine construction was in full bloom in Germany. The large gas machines developed by Hans Richter were used to drive piston compressors and generators in both the chemical industry and in iron and steel works. Their development and construction are an expression of high engineering and craftsmanship.
The documents state that construction of the machine hall began in January 1922. Right at the beginning of the construction work, a siding was laid to the works railway network.
One year later, the shell was completed and in October 1923, at the time of the highest inflation in Germany, the roof was covered with framed concrete elements. The machine hall was built as a cantilevered skeleton structure by craftsmen from the region. At that time it was 95 metres long and 33 metres wide. From 1948 to 1950, it was extended to 121 metres on the west side. In order to be able to support the high dead weight of the machines (Dynamo III, for example, 315 t) and the high loads caused by the expansion forces, the foundations had to be built far into the ground. The nacelle ceiling was erected between the foundations at the operating height of the machines. The assembly was carried out with the 40 t crane of the MAN company.
Due to sales difficulties with the metallurgical products, there was no money to continue the investments. After an interruption of almost 2 years, work on the construction of the gas machine centre could only be continued in 1926. From this year onwards, the gas purification plant and the switch house were built. In 1928, all 7 large gas machines were installed. The remaining work, however, continued until 1929.
The most important technical data of the seven large gas machines (according to their installation from east to west)
|Wind pressure (atü)
|Wind quantity (Nm³/h)
|Gas blower blast furnace
|Gas blower steel mill
|Combined gas blower or dynamo
|85 or 94
|2000 kW Generator power