Perching on top of mundane houses, jutting out of a car factory or conspicuously towering over a power plant, chimneys come at many shapes and sizes. Developed as a tool to dispose of toxic gases that are produced during combustion, this ubiquitous structure dates back as far as to the Roman Era. While most chimneys barely exceed a couple of meters, some reach a gargantuan size, so much so, that even Santa Claus will have to resort to parachute landing to overcome their sheer height.
The former village and now low-key town of Sharypovo in Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai has never been under the global spotlight, let alone a tourist destination. Nevertheless, this remote locality is apparently famous for two things, being the birthplace of former USSR leader, Konstantin Chernenko, and home to a massive coal power plant, whose 370-meter-tall chimney is the fifth tallest in the world.
Alongside its notable worldwide rank, it is also the tallest chimney in Russia, as well as the tallest free-standing structure outside of Moscow metropolitan area. Interestingly, the chimney’s sheer height is far from being the only unusual feature of the 2,400 MW power station, as its incessant supply of brown coal is transported directly from the Berezovsky-1 mine in Kansk-Achinsk basin by two 14-kilometer-long open conveyors.
Completed in 1990 after two decades of construction works, Berezovskaya GRES recently underwent a modernization process that makes it a regional indispensable source of power during the harsh cold months. However, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the ensuing economic chaos, the plant’s management had to issue its own currency, so its 4,000 workers can keep enjoying goods and services provided at the company’s shops, canteens and other enterprises.
photography by: Tim18/ Wikimedia Commons
Located on the western outskirts of Salt Lake City, the township of Magna is primarily a bedroom suburb, merely a couple of minutes away from the Western Hemisphere’s largest inland body of saltwater. Sandwiched between the town and the lake, Rio Tinto Kennecott Smelter accounts for 1% of all global copper production, the entirety of which is transported from the nearby Bingham Canyon Mine.
Nestled along Interstate-80, the large industrial complex is exceedingly conspicuous thanks to its 1,215 feet tall smokestack (370.4 meters), the fourth tallest chimney in the world and the tallest man-made structure west of the Mississippi River, including Utah. Constructed in 1974 over the course of 84 days, the then newly-built chimney replaced a series of older smelter stacks that didn’t meet the new criteria as published in the 1970’s Clean Air Act.
46 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower, the Garfield Smelter Stack’s colossal proportions are not limited to its height only, as its diameter ranges from 54 meters at the bottom to 12 meters at the top, while the chimney’s wall reaches a staggering 3.7-meter width at its thickest point. If you ever manage to bypass the site’s numerous restrictions and enter inside, you might be interested in taking the 20-minute elevator journey to the top, from where one can witness breathtaking panoramic views of the lake, the Oquirrh Mountains and Salt-Lake City Downtown area.
photography by: Ken Lund/ Flickr
In an era where ever stricter environmental legislations are being increasingly imposed in the US, more and more coal-burning power plants are forced to shut down across the country. Standing as one of the last major coal power stations in Pennsylvania, Homer City Generating Station is situated 2.5 miles southwest of a borough with which it shares the name, and unlike its smaller counterparts statewide, has no intentions of being decommissioned anytime soon.
With an output of roughly 2 gigawatts, the plant’s three units supply electricity for over 2 million homes. It goes without saying, but the ridiculously huge power capacity of the station corresponds to a massive physical size as well, culminating in a 1,217 feet tall smokestack (371 meters). Despite being no longer operational after a modern gas treatment facility was introduced in 2002, the chimney is the tallest in the United States, the second tallest in North America and the third tallest on Earth.
photography by: Jaro Nemčok/ Wikimedia Commons
Spanning over the largest municipal jurisdiction in Ontario, Sudbury is a major global mining center with no less than 9 operational mines, 2 smelters, 2 mills and one refinery. During the construction works of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883, large deposits of copper and nickel ore were unintentionally discovered, ultimately making the town an industrial powerhouse over the next decades.
Nestled amid a strikingly dystopian landscape, Sudbury’s Vale Copper Cliff Complex is not only the world’s largest nickel smelter by capacity, but also home to Inco Superstack, which as its name suggests is a mind-bogglingly massive chimney.
Completed in 1972, the 1,250 feet tall superstack (381 meters) is a record-breaker, as it is the tallest chimney in Canada, North America and in fact, in the entire western hemisphere. Moreover, it is the second free standing structure nationwide after the CN Tower in Toronto, and before our next contender was built in 1987, it also served as the world’s tallest chimney.
Originally erected as a mean to dispose of toxic sulfuric gases and disperse them as far away as possible, the superstack was decommissioned in 2020 after being replaced by two smaller chimneys. It was set to be demolished that year, but as of 2021, it is still standing, and so, you still have a chance to witness the once tallest chimney on Earth.
photography by: P199/ Wikimedia Commons
Tucked away in Kazakhstan’s remote northern region, the town of Ekibastuz is home to the largest coal open-pit mine on the planet, with proven deposits of more than 13 billion tons of the precious rock. Established as a mining town in the mid-1950’s after three decades of notoriously being a gulag camp, Ekibastuz is now a national energy epicenter, as the city’s pair of Soviet-era power plants, GRES-1 and GRES-2, have a combined output of 5 gigawatts, accounting for a quarter of the country’s total capacity.
The latter of which, GRES-2 power station, is dwarfed by its own smokestack. At 419.7 meters (1,377 feet), it is by far the tallest chimney anywhere in the world, as well as the 37th tallest free-standing structure on Earth. The chimney’s total mass, mostly reinforced concrete, amounts to over 60 thousand tons, while its diameter fluctuates between 14.2 meters at the top to a whopping 44 meters at its base. Hilariously, the Soviet authorities planned to construct an identical copy of the stack in Norilsk Metallurgical Plant, yet it never came into fruition, making Ekibastuz’s smokestack the sole title holder of the “the tallest chimney in the world” Guinness Record.
photography by: Маргарита москалюк/ Wikimedia Commons