For over 30 years, the 200-meter-high chimneys of the Setúbal Thermoelectric Power Station have been part of the landscape for those who live there and pass by.
However, the scenario changed and became different on March 29th, 2020. The chimneys were knocked down as part of the deactivation of this plant, which has been closed since 2013.
Times change, energy production changes
The construction of this plant began in the early 1970s and the first group started operating in that decade. This was the last conventional thermal power plant in Portugal to burn fuel oil. It produced electricity over 35 years and stopped operating in 2013.
Until the opening of the Sines Thermoelectric Power Station, the Setúbal Power Station was the largest and most important thermal power plant in the country, supplying about 25% of the Portuguese population in the 80's and 90's of the last century.
The Setúbal Thermoelectric Plant had 250 permanent jobs. With its closure, employees who meet the necessary conditions will go into retirement or pre-retirement, and the remaining ones will be reinstated in the EDP Group. Many of them are still in the company today.
"When I look back, it is with great peace and joy that I see the good work I had accomplished."
Miguel Simas, EDP's retired employee and former director of the Setúbal Thermoelectric Power Plant
“We had a family here. We have done Christmas and New Year’s eves here. We joined the team as if we were a family. And then, at midnight, we called our real family…”
Nuno Marques, EDP employee
Take down chimneys in 3, 2, 1…
About 200 kg of explosives were placed in each of the chimneys and explosives were also placed in small pools of water around the place where things would fall to ensure that the collapse was accompanied by a curtain of water, to help reduce the dust caused during the process.
This entire operation was coordinated with the local authorities to ensure that the entire process fulfills all safety requirements.
Deactivating a power station step by step
The demolition of these smokestacks is just one step in a much longer and more complex process, the process of decommissioning a plant.
This process involves 3 phases:
Phase 1: Decommissioning
This phase aims to leave the facility safe and without risk of generating environmental problems. Among other activities, fuel oil and other chemicals in the facility are disposed of; the tanks and pipes are cleaned, etc.
Phase 2: Disassembly
This is the phase which includes the demolition of the stacks. It began in 2016 and is expected to end in 2020.
To date (29th March), two boilers and two groups of the turbines out of the four that were initially present have been completely disassembled. Other auxiliary buildings and additional equipment such as fuel tanks, power transformers, filters, etc. were also demolished.
Phase 3: Environmental rehabilitation of the plant property
Upon the completion of all dismantling and demolition work, a study of the soil is carried out to identify possible sources of contamination and to determine the necessary steps for remediation. This analysis and any subsequent action will be carried out beginning in 2021.
The entire deactivation process is in coordination with the Portuguese Environment Agency.
The future can only be renewable
With its focus on the future, EDP developed its strategy for 2030 with a clear commitment to renewable energies and the goal of fighting climate change. With a commitment to reaching more than 90% of its production through renewable sources and without coal, it takes for granted that fossil fuels are a thing of the past and will have no place in the green future that we want to build.
In 2030, Setúbal's Power Station will exist only in the images and memories of those who were part of that story. The plant played a fundamental role in bringing electricity to many people's homes and was a product of another time and context, but no more.
The future is now more sustainable and will bring new challenges, new images and new memories for those who participate in this new chapter of energy's history.
Viewing some of the images of the Power Station during its decomissioning phase: