I’m afraid that this is rather long and probably very boring, but I spent six moths with almost free access to both power stations in 1975 as part of my degree in Electrical Engineering, I found the places fascinating (if only I’d taken some pictures). So, a bit of History
(apologies to _ste_ for pinching two of his pictures)....
On 3rd March 1888 work started on building William Hesketh Lever’s soap factory and village on the marsh by Bromborough Pool, a year later the first soap was produced. The village was called Port Sunlight after Lever’s ‘Sunlight’ trademark.
Over the coming years both the works and the village expanded, ‘Lifebuoy’ soap was introduced in 1894, Sunlight docks were opened in 1895, ‘Lux’ soap flakes appeared in 1902 and ‘Vim’ scouring powder arrived in 1904. By 1911 the factory was producing 4,000 tons per week. By 1916 they had bought their neighbour, Price’s Patent Candle Company.
More and more electricity was being used in the manufacturing processes, so in 1918 Lever Brothers built a power station on the banks of the Mersey on what was to become Commercial Road.
The station was called Central Power Station and had three coal fired boilers and a 5 Megawatt generating set manufactured by Siemen’s Brothers. The boilers had ‘chain grates’, these were like slow moving conveyor belts which passed through the furnaces, coal was loaded on one end from a hopper, it moved into the furnace and as the coal burned, the ash was collected in hoppers under the boilers.
Expansion continued, in 1929 electricity was installed in the houses of Port Sunlight Village and, in 1931, Bromborough Dock was opened. To meet the increased demand, Central Power Station was expanded, with the addition of three more coal fired boilers and a 6.25 Megawatt generating set.
The station could now produce a total of 11.5 Megawatts of electrical power at 3.3kv.
By the 1950s Central Power Station was producing power for the various Lever’s factories around Port Sunlight and Bromborough, both of the Villages and for other companies operating in the Bromborough Pool area. It had a connection to the main MANWEB electricity supply so that in periods of high demand it imported power from MANWEB, and at times of low demand it exported power to MANWEB.
Many of the works supplied with electricity also used steam and there were more than 10 low pressure steam generating plants operating in the area. A new type of generating set was now available, this was known as a ‘Back Pressure Generator’, it took steam at high pressure, used it to turn the turbine then output the steam for re-use at a lower pressure.
A pilot scheme was installed in the hardening plant of the old margarine works, opposite Central Power Station, this consisted of a small 1.3 Megawatt back pressure generating set manufactured by British Thomson Houston. This took steam at 230 p.s.i. from the power station boilers and output steam at 50 p.s.i.
The pilot scheme was a success, and it was decided to build a new power station on what is now Thermal Road. Merseyside Power Station in the 1970s
The new station was built with four oil fired boilers producing steam at 650 p.s.i. These supplied two primary generating sets, each producing 5 Megawatts at 11kv and reducing the steam pressure to 230 p.si. This lower pressure steam supplied two secondary generating sets, each producing 2.5Megawatts at 3.3kv, these reduced the steam pressure to 110 p.s.i. Oil was supplied to the station by a 4 inch diameter pipeline from the Shell pumping station at Ellesmere Port.
The pilot scheme in the hardening plant was retained, as were two of the newer boilers in Central Power Station, the remaining four boilers and the two generating sets were shut down but retained for standby purposes.
The station, named Merseyside Power Station, was commissioned in 1958 and was capable of producing 16.3Mw of electrical power, and steam at 230, 110 and 50 p.s.i.
There was one other boiler in the system, this was a low pressure (110 p.s.i.) boiler located at Bromborough dock, it was heated by burning the waste from all the Lever factories in the area. Boiler Controls in Merseyside Power Station
In 1964 work started on expanding Merseyside Power Station, a new 1,500 p.s.i. boiler and two new generating sets were installed. These new generators were manufactured by AEI, the first produced 5.4 Megawatts at 11kv, this reduced the 1,500 p.s.i. steam to 650 p.s.i., and the second produced 8.1 Megawatts at 11kv and reduced the steam pressure to 110 p.s.i. One of the new Generators
The extension was commissioned in 1966, the hardening plant generator remained in service, but the two working boilers at Central Power Station were reduced to stand by status, and the three older boilers were put into dry storage. The Unilever network now had a total capacity of almost 30 Megawatts and provided steam at 1500, 230, 110 and 50 p.s.i. For security, a second connection to the MANWEB network was established at the Sunlight South Substation. Control Room at Merseyside Power Station
In 1974, a further extension to Merseyside Power Station was started, this was almost a duplicate of the 1966 expansion, with one additional high pressure boiler and two additional back pressure generating sets. At the same time the switch gear at Central Power station was replaced and the control rooms at both power stations were refurbished, the biggest changes being at Central were the old wooden control desks were replaced with new steel desks. The smart new control desks today
During the next few years, the older three boilers at Central Power Station were removed and one of the boiler wings was demolished.
With changes in industrial processes, the requirements for steam changed and in January 1997, Unilever announced that Merseyside Power Station would close, with power distribution being handed over to MANWEB, at the end of 1998. Following closure, Merseyside Power Station was demolished, the control room block at Central Power Station was retained until new arrangements could be made for the connection to the MANWEB network, but the remaining boiler block, turbine room and cooling tower were demolished. Central Power Station Today, only the derelict 11kv switchroom with the control room above remains Merseyside Power Station Today