Belgian furnace demolition a pushover for Despe

By Lindsay Gale18 September 2012

From the 1800s, the family owned steel plant known as the Forges de Clabecq remained an independent, concern until its final demise in 1995, when the company went in bankruptcy. The site at Tubize, on the outskirts of Brussels, is now owned by mulit-national company Duferco, and is being cleared for redevelopment. Duferco brought Italian contractor Despe in to demolish a 7,000 tonne furnace that stood 90 m (296 ft) high. This imposing structure had to be brought down safely and in a controlled manner - however, this imposed a challenge created by the presence of residential buildings just 60 m (195 ft) away from the furnace. This meant that a demolition method had to be selected that minimised vibration.

In the end, Despe opted to push the structure over using hydraulic jacks, a method that obviated the need for explosives.

First a planning and design stage was initiated by a team of four Despe engineers led by Paolo Cecclla that lasted for three months. This was followed by a further two months during which the structure of the furnace was carefully weakened using cutting torches according to a plan that ensured that the structural integrity of the furnace remained intact. During this time, two hydraulic jacks were also carefully positioned at the two points on the furnace structure calculated to produce the fall of the furnace in the desired manner.

Once all this preparation work was completed, the furnace was ready to fall. At 12.30 on Sunday 2 September, the hydraulic jacks were activated and, precisely as planned, within seconds the 7,000 tonnes of steel was lying on the ground, with no damage of any kind inflicted on the nearby buildings.

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