Power station prepares for ‘heart-wrenching’ demolition of cooling towers

The demolition of a record-breaking power station that provided energy to the UK for 50 years is “heart-wrenching”, a project manger who has worked there for nearly three decades has said.

Four of the cooling towers that form Ferrybridge C, a landmark for drivers using the A1(M) and M62 motorways in West Yorkshire, are being taken down on October 13 after the site produced its final electricity in March 2016.

Another of Ferrybridge’s eight cooling towers was brought down in July when the 114-metre-high Tower Six collapsed in a controlled explosion.

Ferrybridge Power Station
Only seven of the cooling towers at Ferrybridge remain standing – for now (Danny Lawson/PA)

The final three towers are being retained in case a decision is taken to use the ground for a new gas-fired power station.

Paul Hook, 45, has worked at Ferrybridge since the age of 17, first as an apprentice before working his way up to project manager three years ago.

Discussing his role in managing the lengthy demolition process, Mr Hook said: “I’ve always been in engineering, and demolition is another aspect of engineering, so personally on the one hand there’s a new skill-set there that I’m developing and it’s really quite interesting.

“But, on the flip-side, it’s quite heart-wrenching sometimes when, for example, you see workers removing the turbines for disposal. For the last 30 years I’ve worked at this station, so it’s a strange feeling seeing it slowly come down.”

The project manager said that a nearby housing estate opposite the site will have to be evacuated on the day the four towers are demolished for safety, with the controlled explosives expected to collapse all four towers within about 10 seconds.

Mr Hook said Ferrybridge is regarded by motorists as a landmark as they travel through West Yorkshire, telling the PA news agency: “You can see it from most directions that you travel in. Whether you’re travelling north, south, east or west, you’ll get to see Ferrybridge at some point, so it is quite a key landmark for people travelling.

Ferrybridge Power Station
A turbine being decommissioned (Danny Lawson/PA)

“We’ll be sad to see it go – it’ll be quite a strange horizon when people are travelling back home when there are just three towers left there.”

Ferrybridge C opened in 1966 and became the first power station in Europe to succeed in generating electricity from a 500-megawatt machine.

In 1973 one of the generators set a world record by running non-stop for 5,448 hours, generating 2,999 gigawatt hours.

The site’s owners, energy company SSE, decided to shut down the coal-fired power station as it was believed to have no longer been economical.

Ferrybridge Power Station
The turbine room at Ferrybridge (Danny Lawson/PA)

Discussing his time working there, Mr Hook said: “Obviously the station itself has changed over time, we’ve had to adapt it to emission targets and new technology has come in, but the culture and the heart of the site has always been the people, and that culture has always been unique and constant.”

The closure of the plant is part of the SSE’s transition to low-carbon energy, with the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm, situated 13km off the Caithness Coast in Scotland, opening on July 29.

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