Methil no more

IT took just moments to reduce the hulking structure of Methil Power Station into a mash of mangled metal.

Onlookers were shocked at the sheer power of the blast, which could be felt and heard right across town.

But, unfortunately, not everyone could see the drama unfold last Wednesday.

Mere minutes before the scheduled detonation at 2.30pm, a thick haar completely obscured the power station for onlookers standing on the Promenade.

Many people had waited years for this moment and hoped contractors Brown and Mason would delay the explosion until conditions became clearer.

But they stuck rigidly to the plan.

Company representatives on the ground told disappointed onlookers the operation was an extremely costly venture and delays to satisfy the public’s wishes would have cost “thousands” more.

ScottishPower later explained high winds would have postponed the exercise but poor visibility at higher levels did not constitute a health and safety threat. As long as the contractors on the ground could still see one another clearly enough to co-ordinate the detonation process, the scheduled time would be adhered to.

The company was unable to put an exact figure on the cost of the detonation.

Dylan Hughes, project manager at ScottishPower, said: “The work to demolish the boiler house at Methil is an important stage in the process of clearing the site completely, ready for the land to be handed back to Forth Ports when our lease ends in 2012.

“We opted for a controlled explosive demolition on the grounds of safety.

“It means that materials can now be cleared from the site at ground level, rather than requiring a demolition team working at height for an extended period of time.”

He added the demolition had followed “extensive planning”.

The steel had previously been weakened by heat to guarantee the metal structure collapsed when small explosive charges were detonated at lower sections of the building’s structure.

Moments prior to the explosion, the team sounded a horn to scare all the birds from the site.

On the East Fife Mail’s Facebook page the following day, numerous Levenmouth residents called into question the welfare of wildlife occupied on or near the power station.

ScottishPower is assuring the public, however, that a full survey had been carried out by an ecologist prior to demolition and no birds’ nests were found in the structure.

Nor would there be any impact on local wildlife as a result of the structure’s collapse.

The project to demolish the power station began in April 2010 and the work last Wednesday means only the administration building and the 300-foot chimney stack remain.

Speaking to spectators at the demolition last Wednesday, Brown and Mason representatives outlined their plan to bring down the chimney.

It would be brought down by controlled detonation in two to three months.

The intention was to clear the existing ground to make a sufficiently large ‘crash-zone’ for the chimney to topple on to with a considerably larger exclusion zone.

The Bawbee Brig, for example, would have to be temporarily closed to traffic.

However, a spokeperson from ScottishPower refused to confirm whether this was the case.

He said: “Plans are currently being finalised for the removal of the chimney stack, which is expected to take place in the summer.”

Located on the southern side of the mouth of the River Leven, Methil Power Station was a 60- megawatt coal slurry-fired station. It became operational in 1965 and was one of only a few stations in the UK designed to run on ‘waste coal’.

The waste coal, also known as ‘washings’, was transported to the station by road and rail from surrounding coalfields.

John Dryburgh from Methil worked in the station for 20 years until 1995.

He said: “It ran on full throttle because it was so cheap to run – until the transportation of the washings became too expensive, first by rail and then by lorry.”

In 2000, the Methil station stopped electricity generation but was kept as part of Scottish Power’s strategic reserve.

On Wednesday, as the dust and the excitement settled down, spectators were left to contemplate the sorry end of the ‘Soviet-style‘ building which had dominated the Levenmouth landscape for almost 50 years.

The focus now is what will be built in its place.

ScottishPower’s lease of the land ends in 2012 when it will be returned to landowner Forth Ports, which will determine its future use. In its local plan, Fife Council has designated the land for retail and tourism use in the future.

Any proposal, says the council, will be considered on its own merits.