Coal refining company Frechen

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Wachtberg from the west from the air
The Frechen coal refining company in the Rhenish lignite district

The coal refining plant Frechen of RWE Power was established in August 1901 as a briquette Wachtberg in the district of Wachtberg of Frechen in the Rhenish lignite mining area of Cologne Bay .


Wachtberger briquette press, built in 1901 (today at Grube Sybilla)

Already at the beginning of the lignite mining in the Frechen area, the Wachtberg was occupied with individual smaller pits. A first license was granted in 1871. But it was not until March 1901 that the Johannisthal entrepreneur Alfred Eberhard von Blankenfelde, who had leased the mine, submitted a building application for a briquette factory. After several changes, the entrepreneurs Viktor Rolff from Cottbus and Wilhelm Werhahn from Neuss finally joined the company now called Wachtberg GmbH . The factory was built between May 1901 and May 1902 (start of production, official acceptance in July 1902) on the northern (lignite-free) edge of the mine field by the Bernburg machine works with five single-line steam presses and eight tube dryers , the construction manager was the Cologne architect and contractor Gottfried Riphahn, the father by Wilhelm Riphahn . The coal was transported from the directly adjacent pits to the factories using inclined elevators . It was removed via a siding on the Cologne-Frechen-Benzelrath railway . In the following years, further concessions and plants were taken over and existing plants were expanded (Wilhelmina, Wildling, Fürstenberg, Klespesgrube), which were finally sold to Bayer in 1920 . In 1942, the five plants with 39 single, one double and ten twin presses produced 1,062,187 t of briquettes and 20,419 t of pulverized lignite. The works and pits survived the Second World War largely without major damage, so that after production resumed under Allied control in summer 1945, 649,118 t could be pressed again by the end of the year. In 1926, the Wachtberg II mine field, located southwest of Türnich, was developed and put into operation on September 1, 1934, shortly before the Wachtberg I field was closed (November 1934). In 1950, when the Wachtberg II field was also facing exhaustion, the Rheinische AG for lignite mining and briquette production (RAG) leased the works and then took them over in July 1952, as only they had coal reserves nearby, in the Frechen open- cast mine opened in 1952 . After its charring, the supply took place briefly from the Bergheim opencast mine , until it was finally supplied by the north-south railway from the Hambach and Garzweiler opencast mines . In 1980 the oldest plant, Wachtberg I, was shut down and then demolished. A new plant for pulverized lignite was built under his name in 1986 at the old location. The presses of plants II to V were converted to electric drives between 1961 and 1969. To this end, the more modern twin presses from the group's disused plants were overhauled and installed in the Wachtberg works.

Todays situation

Today Frechen is the only location in the Rhenish Revier where briquettes are still made from lignite . The overall structure of coal refinement in the plant consists of (2005) 28% house-fire briquette (7 inches), 25% industrial briquette (3 inches) and 47% pulverized lignite for large-scale combustion systems. (2012 61% briquette and 39% dust) The latest product since 2006, the Ireland Briquette , is mixed with 30% hard coal dust . It burns particularly low in sulfur and smoke and is therefore environmentally friendly, also suitable for the Irish No Smoking Zones . This allows the Irish to keep their traditional coal-fired heating systems in the city centers. It is hoped that an annual production of 100,000 tonnes will be achieved in 2003. Rheinische Fuel GmbH in Cologne, a 100% subsidiary of RWE Power, sold around half a million tonnes of briquettes. 40 briquette presses and 10 dust mills are installed in the factory, which are used depending on the order situation. With a capacity of 6.5 million t / a of raw lignite, 1.7 million t / a of dry lignite were produced in 2005 from 4.7 million t / a of raw lignite. Also in the coal refining plant Fortuna-Nord , which is part of the demonstration operation on the themed street Straße der Energie , there are still 31 presses that are not currently in use (the third plant in Ville / Berrenrath only produces pulverized lignite for industrial customers).

Since there are almost no traditional coal dealers left, house-fire briquettes are packed in the factory and sold in 10 kg and 25 kg packages via hardware stores and Raiffeisen cooperative markets under the name Union-Brikett as fuel for stoves , stoves and central heating . The delivery takes place by means of trucks, and in particular industrial briquettes, via the Cologne-Frechen-Benzelrather railway to the Cologne ports and, more rarely, via Cologne ports and freight traffic to the Godorf port (near Wesseling ). The dust is transported to the customer in special tank wagons .

Briquette production will end in 2022.


Raw lignite contains up to 55% water, its calorific value is low. It must first be processed. This is done through:

  • Milling in coal mills , in which the coarser parts of the lignite (stumps, tree stumps still recognizable in their structure, whose coalification is imperfect) are crushed,
  • Drying with superheated steam in rotating tube dryers ,
  • Pressing by extrusion with pressures of up to 100 bar into briquettes without additional binding agents.

The factories themselves generate the electricity for the machines and the process steam in combined heat and power plants . Unused electricity is fed into the power grid. Also, waste heat and process steam can be further utilized. The power plant boilers work according to the fluidized bed process . In addition to pulverized coal, the Frechen plant also burns dried sewage sludge. Initially, it was also planned to burn waste wood (e.g. old railway sleepers). The operator dropped this plan after extensive protests by local residents.


The factory cannot normally be visited. (There was an exception at the 100th anniversary in 2001). The Fortuna-Nord plant in Bergheim-Niederaußem is available as a station on the Straße der Energie .


  • Manfred Coenen, Karl Pokschewinski, Volker HW pupil: 100 years of Wachtberg. Pit & Briquette Factory 1901-2001 . In: Documenta Berchemensis Historica . tape 3 . Schüler, Frechen 2001, DNB  988295474 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Walter Buschmann , Norbert Gilson, Barbara Rinn: Brown coal mining in the Rhineland , ed. from the Landschaftsverband Rheinland and MBV-NRW , 2008, p. 456 ff
  2. According to website (accessed July 2013)

Coordinates: 50 ° 53 ′ 52 "  N , 6 ° 47 ′ 40"  E