Combined power-plant, pump & turbine station in Belgium

08 November, 2017

ESCO Couplings has participated in the installation of the combined power-plant, pumping & turbining station on the Albertkanaal (Albert Canal) in Ham and Olen in Belgium.

The Albertkanaal is linking the port of Antwerp with Liège (two major cities in Belgium), the port of Rotterdam and the Rhine river and Düsseldorf. Hence is the Albertkanaal a highly important waterway for the Belgian economy and industry.

Along the canal there are quite a few locks to overcome the slope gradient as well as to keep the water level in each section at acceptable height to allow normal traffic throughout the year. The water quantity to allow large barges to navigate is very important. It depends on the water supplies coming from the rain and from some of the European mountains. This supply is thus not constant or guaranteed. In summertime for example, the risk for too low water supply creating a low level of the water in the canal would jeopardize the water traffic with inherent economical costs.

To encounter this, the Flemish region launched a project dedicated to use the natural overflow of the locks in the winter and spring time to generate electricity. And in the dryer season, to reuse the water normally lost by emptying the locks by recuperating that water volume and pump it back into the upstream section of the canal to help keeping the water level high enough.

To build the 2 large turbining/pumping-generation stations, the company ENGIE Fabricom and its joint-venture partner Hye carried out the design and construction of the 2 innovative integrated pumping stations and hydropower plants – a unique environmental and electromechanical accomplishment. And while the company Vandezande designed and built the huge hydrodynamic screws that are driving the plant, ENGIE Fabricom took charge of the complete mechanical, electrical and hydraulic scope of the project.

How does it work exactly? With a diameter of 4.5 meters and a length of 24 meters, the installations in Ham and Olen were equipped with the biggest Archimedes screws ever built. It is also the first time in history that hydrodynamic screws are used to drive an electrical generator on this industrial scale. They have an energy output of 400 kW each for a water level difference of a mere 10 meters. ESCO Couplings supplied 3 of its Escogear FSV 450 couplings to transmit the power of the Archimedes screws to the gearbox low speed input shaft installed in the machine room on top of the inclined Archimedes screws.

This innovative engineering project contributes to the canal’s water level management and most of the time to the generation of 1.200 kW of renewable energy, which is then distributed to the public power grid.