Preserving History – The American Petroleum Company – Petroleum Zuid Antwerpen
Due to dangerous petroleum fires in the old harbour of Antwerp it was decided to move the entire petroleum business to the south and therefor had 54 hectares of soil to be expropriated from the Hobokense polders in the year 1900.
To grant access to the marine transportation the current quayside of Antwerp had to be extended 2 kilometres to the south and a new concrete pier had to be constructed near the site. The extension works lasted from 1897 until 1903.
Construction started in 1902 and in operation from 1903 by the American Petroleum Company or APC.
A huge devastating fire broke out on 26 August 1904 and destroyed most of its buildings and installations, except some warehouses and the congierge building survived the aftermath.
The Interwar Period
Petroleum demand was still staggering high and the American Petroleum Company in Antwerp served as the most important petroleum harbour in Europe.
After the Second World War, WWII, most of the petroleum storage and production relocated to the northern side of Antwerp to the new Marshall dock, leaving behind 4 other companies in the area. They can remain until 2035, marking the end of their concession.
Blue Gate Antwerp
Petroleum Zuid became Blue Gate Antwerp in 2011, it’s a brand-new concept for the abandoned area once thriving with a blooming petroleum industry and which now has to completely disappear to make space for new a industry business.
The leftover warehouses, concierge building and lots of oil pipes are still present, at least up until 2013/2014 when everything but a warehouse of the American Petroleum Company was preserved and marked as cultural heritage.
Our first visit
We were well familiar with this peculiar site as teenagers who loved cycling in the area. Adventure and wild explores were in our blood starting at a very young age. Petroleum Zuid attracted us as we loved exploring the old and forgotten industrial zone of Antwerp South. When we first discovered the place it was already long abandoned and we could freely enter the site without any problems whatsoever.
Of course we knew the dangers of urban exploring, so we were always very careful. As there were many parts of the site spoiled with petroleum, oil, burned down roofs and almost collapsing buildings we were very alert of anything that could happen at any moment during our explores, and we never went alone.
Alan in his early 20s he knew this site as he had guitar classes in Hoboken, not far from this American Petroleum Company and he passed these abandoned cobblestone roads for at least a decade. He knew every street out of his head and also saw the area evolving into something completely different than it was when he first saw the place as a teenager.
Now at his 30s the site got demolished and replaced with new buildings in development.
The Concrete Pier
Lot A consisted of the first construction of the jettypier in 1902, located near the river Scheldt and would allow the petroleum to flow above the ground to the facilities where it would be collected into the petroleum storage tanks. The pier was completed in 1903 and has a length of 301.6 metres, with a maximum tanker vessel capacity of 3. The very first tanker arrived on 3 August 1903.
During World War 1 there was no activity due to lack of the resource as it was all reserved for the war.
Pipelines in the air
After the First World War the activity at the Petroleum-Zuid restarted again and restoration works of the jettypier could begin. In 1930 the underground petroleum pipes became out of use and above ground pipes were installed on the site as we can still see today.
To cover the growing demand of petroleum a new pier was errected on the south-west side of the existing pier. And in 1962 a third pier was errected for tanker barges. Which became the last pier constructed on the site.
A Swiss company started doing business in the year 1946 at Petroleum-Zuid in the coal industry. Although not lasting very long, they changed to fuel and lubricant oils.
In 1971 with the arrival of fuel trucks the export of fuel oil, or as we like to call it; mazout, became a fact. Their logo speaks for itself.