100 Years of Leuna-Works

Aerial View of Leuna-Werk (1927) with 13 smoke stacks. (LASA, MER, I 525, FS Nr. G 13106)

In the 19th century the population of Europe doubled. To ensure a sufficient supply of farm produce, it was necessary to develop synthetic fertilizers.

This goal was achieved by Fritz Haber in 1909: he invented a process in which nitrogen (from air) reacted to ammonia. The BASF Company under Carl Bosch was able to translate this process into a large scale production facility in 1913.

Leuna - petrol station (1931)
(LASA, MER, I 525, FS Nr. G 22337)

However, the First World War changed the aim of this production as ammonia was equally suited to be used for explosives. A new production site was founded in Leuna. After construction for one year only, the new ammonia plant started up in 1917.

After the war the plant was converted back to a fertilizer plant by BASF. In the following years further plants were established, such as methanol, synthetic petrol from coal or caprolactam for Nylon 6, all firsts of their kind.

Chemical site of Leuna
image: InfraLeuna GmbH

After the Second World War the damaged plants were rebuilt. A milestone in the further growth of the site was the construction of the first oil refinery, which was fed by the "Druschba-pipeline". Other new products, like HP-polyethylene, resins, catalysts or technical gases, were and are produced in Leuna.

The unification of 1990 brought great changes and hardship. Plants were closed and demolished, some were replaced. Most prominently a new oil refinery was built.

Administrative building of the chemical site of Leuna
image: InfraLeuna GmbH

Today the Leuna-Works are a thriving and successful chemical production site.