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Why did Odda get industrialized?

Easily accessible hydropower was the main reason for establishing energy-intensive industry in Odda. In the very beginning the development technology was way ahead of the transmission technology, wich explains why the new indutries had to be established near to the power sources.

The power company AS Tyssefaldene made a business contract with the british Sun Gas Company to sell at least 18000 Horsepower to factories being built in Odda for the production of Calsium Carbide and Calsium Cyanamide. The acquisition of the water rights in the Tysso watercourse started at the end of the 1800s. The properties and rights were bought by AS Tyssefaldene in 1906.


Behind the industrial establishment was foreign capital. The founders of the Power company were besides Sam Eyde, Swedish capital represented by Knut Tillberg, Marcus and Knut Wallenberg, as of Lieutenant Allan Abenius, Engineer Dr. Albert Petersson, Director F. Hjort as well as Director A. Scott Hansen.

The Sun Gas Company had a Carbide factory in Alby in Sweden. The expantion of the production would require great amounts of power and the possibility of transport to sea. Albert Petersson was director at the Alby-factory and was crucial to getting the carbide production in Odda started. Before the contract with AS Tyssefaldene was signed, The Sun Gas Company had secured the deposition of the production of Calsium Carbide through a contract with the British Railway and the right to produce Calsium Cyanamide after the methods of the german Chemists dr. Caro og dr. Frank securing deposition on the german and the british market, in addition to others.


The hydropower- and industrial production started in 1908, after a short and hectical construction period.



    Albert Petersson     Fredrik Hiorth

Sam Eyde                                    Albert Petersson                          Fredrik Hiorth


The industrialization of  Tyssedal/Odda continued with new factories and expantions of the power capasity. In 1916 The Norwegian Nitrid Company for the production of aluminum was established in Tyssedal. On the other side of the fjord a factory for producing Zink was established during the years 1924 to 1929;  The Norwegian Zink Company. 



The Norwegian Zink Company in Eitrheimsneset in Odda 1929Foto: Nathalie Lubowidsky


Trollpowder and the Odda process

A vital international question at the end of the 19th ventury was how to make the soil nurish sufficiently to be able to produce enough food for the worlds population. The natural resources of Saltpeter in Chile were coming to an end. The german chemists dr. Caro og dr. Frank developed a method at the end of 1800 for producing Calsium Cyanamide.


Cyanamide was a slow acting nitrogen fertilizer and especially suitable for plants with a slow growth. Carbide was a crucial application factor in this production. The carbide factory in Odda was originally build for a production capasity of 32 000 tons. 10 000 tons were planned for the production of cyanamide. The carbide factory in Odda was one of the largest in the world, and the cyanamide factory was the largest in 1909, with a poduction capasity of 12 000 tons. The product was marketed as Troll powder because of its effect. 




The Odda process


The Odda process was a revolutionary way of producing fertilizer. This process did not produce any waste products. Chemical Engineer at Odda Smelteverk, Erling B. Johnsson, developed and patented the Odda process in the 1920ies  In 1934 an agreement for usage was made with Bamag Meguin as well as with  I. G. Farben in 1938.

This is a chemical process based on nitric acid, used in industrial production of three-component chemical fertilizer (which combines nitrogen, phosphor and potassium). The Odda process was developed by head chemist Erling B. Johnson at the Odda smelting plant in 1927-28. The Odda process made it possible to obtain a saleable by-product from the nitrate component, i.e. calcium nitrate, which could also be used in farming. Calcium nitrate is, among other things, a suitable fertilizer where water is scarce. A separate test plant was built at the Odda plant, and until 1930 a number of patents related to this process were filed. However, it was never actually used for production at the Odda plant: Norsk Hydro took over the task of developing the process as of 1930. 


Now, almost hundred years after Erling B. Johnsson developing this revolutianry process of fertilizing, it is still being used in factories around the world.


Erling B. Johnson Erling B. Johnson. Foto: NVIM arkiv



From the article   'Vasskraft og industri i Hordaland i første halvdel av 1900-tallet'  by Elisabeth Bjørsvik.

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Norwegian Museum of Hydropower and Industry

Naustbakken 7, 5770 Tyssedal
Phone: +47 53 65 00 50