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Demolition Of Cockenzie Power Station


ScottishPower today (Saturday 26th September) carried out the explosive demolition of Cockenzie Power Station, comprising the twin chimney stacks and turbine hall.

The first controlled explosive demolition of the 149m  twin chimneys took place at 12 noon with a second explosive event bringing down the turbine hall structure immediately afterwards.

The completion of this stage of the demolition project leaves the boiler house as the last remaining major structure from the power station. The boiler house will be demolished later this winter. 

Over 160kg of nitro glycerine based explosives were used in the demolition of the chimney stacks, where there were approximately 1500 charge holes drilled in each chimney.  The explosives were designed to blow out the base of the chimneys so they fell towards each other. Both chimneys were demolished simultaneously where they impacted approximately 140m in the air. The 220m long turbine hall was demolished by 120kg of explosives, which were attached to 19 major box columns that were removed progressively within 1 second.

The initiation system was fully backed up with double detonators and connectors throughout where separate back up firing lines were run to each chimney. Overall 4,000 metres of shock tube was employed in the demolition project.

The button, to initiate the demolition was pushed at 12pm by East Lothian resident, Donald McCulloch, the winner of a charity raffle that was organised by Longniddry & District Rotary Club.

Hugh Finlay, ScottishPower Generation Director, said: "The demolition team have been working towards this day for two years, and it was fantastic to see all of our detailed preparations and calculations culminate in such a dramatic event. Comprehensive planning and consultation ensured the event could be managed safely. I would like to thank our partners in this project East Lothian Council and Police Scotland and our contractors Brown and Mason”.

Originally operational in the summer of 1967, Cockenzie was officially opened on the 24th May 1968 by the Secretary of State for Scotland, The Rt. Hon. William Ross. The Power Station generated more than 150 Terawatt Hours (TWh) of electricity in its lifetime, enough to power the average annual electricity needs of more than 1 million homes every year during its 45 years of operation. In total, it is estimated that more than 10,000 people have been employed at Cockenzie, during construction and operation, with many thousands of other jobs supported in the wider supply chain and local area.

When Cockenzie opened in 1967, it was the largest power station in Scotland and Britain was still 2 years away from natural gas being used in electricity generation. Coal accounted for approximately 72% of the fuel input used for electricity generation in Britain, compared to approximately 20.5% in 2014.

In an average year the station would receive approximately 800 train loads of coal, meaning that up to 36,000 freight trains stopped at Cockenzie’s coal handling plant to make deliveries over the lifetime of the station. The last delivery took place at 3pm on Saturday 9th March.

Designed by Sir Robert Matthew (who also designed Edinburgh Airport and the Royal Commonwealth Pool), and famous for its distinctive twin chimney stacks, the station was built with a generating capacity of 1,200MW, comprising four identical units, each capable of generating 300MW. Due to strategic investment and high levels of maintenance, the station comfortably outlived its original estimates of a 25-30 year life cycle.

Click below to view video of the demolition.

Notes to Editors:

  • Cockenzie Power Station occupied a 93 hectare site on the south shore of the Forth Estuary in East Lothian.
  • The twin chimney stacks at Cockenzie were each 149 metres in height.
  • Over 10,000 people worked in Cockenzie Power Station over the operational lifetime of the plant.
  • The grounds of Cockenzie Power Station, especially its ash settling lagoons, provide a range of habitats for local wildlife, including woodland, meadows and wetlands.
  • The 120-hectare ash lagoons in Musselburgh are widely recognised as one of the best places to watch birds in Scotland. In particular, specially constructed wader scrapes – shallow freshwater pools lined with clay built on a decommissioned area – have been included within the Firth of Forth Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in recognition of their value to birds.
  • The Station has supported a wide variety of community events and projects in its lifetime, including the 3Harbours Arts Festival.