• Henrik Haupt

HFB: Abandoned blast furnace in Belgium

Updated: May 17

HFB in Belgium is another of these huge factories that have been part of Belgium's steel industry.

Coke has been produced here for use in the manufacture of metal. In addition, a blast furnace has been used, in which liquid pig iron was produced.

Abandoned blast furnace at HFB in Belgium

My visit to the steelworks

Again at this place, like the other metalwork I visited on the same trip, there were lots of barbed wire fences. However, this place was a lot easier to get into because the guards had dropped out some time ago, so I had the place to me…… I thought.

Because when I walked around a bit and looked in the first buildings, I came past an old power plant, where of course I had to go in and look, and when I stood in the middle, an angle grinder started, somewhere else in the same hall I was standing in.

It was not exactly what I had hoped would happen because even though it was not the first time I had met cable thieves, I do not want to meet other people when I go exploring.

In addition, I had never before experienced anyone being so indifferent to being discovered that they had taken such a noisy tool with them.

No matter what types they were, I was not interested in talking to them this time either.

So I left the power plant, with only a few single mobile pictures, as I had not unpacked the camera yet.

Power plant at abandoned HFB in Belgium
iPhone picture

Part of the experience always goes for me if I meet others that I have not been explored with because then the place does not feel very abandoned. But luckily, it rarely happens that I come across others.

Torpedo wagon to transport the raw liquid steel
Water cleaning facility at HFB Belgium

I wanted to find my way over to the blast furnace and the building it stood in. The furnace is so large that the building is built around the furnace. What I have been able to find on the net is the one over 80 meters high, but just that part I do not want to get hung up on, but I can sign that it was quite fascinating, huge with lots of rusty pipes, which was without a doubt the highlight at this factory.

So, of course, I had to take a closer look at it, and preferably up to see how such a thing works.

Abandoned blast furnace seen from the bottom
Abandoned blast furnace

A blast furnace like this is the first process in the actual production of steel.

Iron ore and coke are poured into the top of the furnace, and some minerals cause impurities in the liquid metal to burn away.

From the top of the abandoned blast furnace

At the bottom of the oven, heated air is blown directly into the metal to keep the temperature in the oven up. In this process, several chemical processes and reactions occur before the pure liquid iron can be drained off at the bottom of the furnace, through some channels that led down to torpedo train cars under the plant.

Two robotic arms were used to drill holes in the clay that closes the hole in the bottom of the furnace to drain the liquid pig iron. The blast furnace ran 24 hours a day, so many tons of liquid metal was tapped from here.

Pipes and tubes for the blast furnace
A look over the abandoned buildings at HFB in Belgium

Due to a decline in demand, the company behind it had to make the decision to close the plant back in 2011. However, it would take three years before the plant finally closed. Today, some of these factories are in disrepair in Belgium, but most are undergoing rapid demolition.

Abandoned steelworks in Belgium

It turned into a couple of good hours at this factory, where I was allowed to go a little in-depth with steel production.

It was one of those slightly harder days, where I got to walk a lot of kilometres, and not least photographed many exciting places. But the experiences and the pictures are always worth it, and there was still room for a selfie.

Selfie of Henrik Haupt from the top of the abandoned blast furnace

I shot a short video of HFB you can see it here: