Bavaria’s image is one of idyllic scenery set against blue skies and fluffy white clouds – one big vacation park. But in recent decades, Bavaria has developed a leading industrial economy renowned the whole world over for its high-tech products for the electronics, engineering and chemical industries.
This century-old industrial history was founded on hydroelectric power. This environmentally compatible form of energy is available cheaply thanks to the steep gradient of the river Alz and the large volume flowing through the river Inn in the districts of Traunstein and Altötting. The cheap power was gained at the expense of longer transport routes for raw materials such as lime, coal, salt and bauxite. And so energy-intensive industry clustered around this power source in the early 20th century.
Bayerische Stickstoffwerke AG, the predecessor to today’s AlzChem, built three hydroelectric plants along the Alz (in Trostberg, Tacherting and Hirten) which are still operational to this day. Starting in 1911, this provided power for the manufacture of calcium carbide and its conversion into the fertilizer calcium cyanamide. A fourth power plant at Burghausen has been providing power for Wacker Chemie since 1922. This power, too, was used to produce calcium carbide, but in this case to manufacture acetaldehyde, acetic acid and acetone.
In 1924, the hydroelectric power of the Inn was the starting point for VAW’s aluminum production in Töging. In 1939, the decision to site a chemical plant at GENDORF near Burgkirchen was made partly due to the hydroelectric power available here. The former Anorgana GmbH needed a lot of calcium carbide from the SKW plant Hart on the Alz River for the manufacture of ethylene oxide and its derivatives.
In the mid 1960s, petrochemicals began to gain importance in the Burghausen area. The former Deutsche Marathon Petroleum GmbH commissioned the first German, purely petrochemical refinery and supplied WACKER and the GENDORF plant with ethylene and acetylene. Low-sulfuric crude oil was pumped from North African sources to Burghausen via a 60-km pipeline branching off the transalpine oil pipeline (Transalpine Oelleitung (TAL)).
This inevitably resulted in drastic changes to the sites in the Burghausen area. Calcium carbide was no longer needed as a basic raw material. However, it still plays an important role today as the basis of calcium cyanamide fertilizer and its NCN chemical derivatives. Nitrogen-carbon-nitrogen compounds are the basis of a whole range of products.