How Did Evolution From Textile To Energy Sector Occur In Turkey? – OpEd


In the 1990s, within the scope of cost reduction in the textile textile industry, the search for a domestic coal-priority auto producer to establish a self-generating power plant was initiated in the sector. At the same time, our American-Turkish joint venture company was established, and we had all the industrial steam boiler design opportunities of our American partner. However, American designs were suitable for the high calorific value coal commonly found in North America. In our country, the calorific values ​​of coal were very low. Compatible with our low calorific value coals Design was difficult, adaptation was difficult, combustion systems were inadequate.

We found a German designer company for two separate grades, pusher type and louvre type, we obtained a long term license from them. Boiler design were complete, compatible grades were okay, at that time there was only a bubble fluid bed design, yet there was not much industrial application in the development stage of circulating fluid bed.

We needed new customers. The market was full of textile mills that use only small firetube type small boilers that burn only heavy fuel oil.

We reached potential textile factories that might be interested, we sent catalog presentations to their senior management, and searched for acquaintances. Gradually, the demands started to come. Most of them wanted thermal power plants that would produce electricity in the range of 5-10 Mwe. The price should have been very cheap first. They pointed to coal mines very close to their factories. They indicated the location of the mine, but they had no idea about the quality, elemental analysis, reserve generation capacity of the coal  mine there.

Factories around Istanbul were citing Ağaçlı and Saray coals as potential local coal sources. Ağaçlı was at the lower calorific value of 3000-4000 kcal / kg and Saray at 1000-1500 kcal / kg. Coals were very cheap, but it was difficult to burn economically in industrial-sized steam boilers because of their very low calorific value.

Bursa region mostly pointed to Orhaneli and Keles coal, and Kayseri Malatya to Afsin Elbistan coal. Söke factory wanted Aydın Şahinali coal. There was no suitable cheap coal in the Adana region, the closest Tufanbeyli was very expensive for them in terms of transportation.

First of all, the Istanbul market asked for an offer, then our market people must have informed each other, they said to each other, “An American licensed joint venture firm is offering a domestic coal-fired thermal power plant.” We suddenly experienced an explosion of demand.

Mensucat santral in Istanbul, Bahariye mensucat, Bozkurt Mensucat, Nergis in Bursa, Bisaş, Söktaş in Söke, Kayseri Birlik, Adana Bossa asked us for an offer.

First, we gave each of them an estimated budget price. Then, when we came to serious buyer price demands, we started to work on serious offers for each.

The calorific value of domestic coal is low everywhere. The price of US dollars over one million Btu is very cheap, but it is very difficult to burn, maybe easier for large-capacity thermal power plants, but even more difficult to burn in an industrial boiler. American design failed to respond for most domestic coal. We couldn’t find a suitable design.

Bubbling type Fluid bed was a new solution. We tried it on some boilers, using the American design for slightly higher calorific coals.

For the steam turbine, we introduced Siemens turbine prices, we went to cheaper market solutions for demands that do not require intermediate steam. We considered a closed steel construction space for the steam turbine. Our steam boiler could work outdoors. At that time, the environmental regulation was not fully formed, electrostatic precipitators, bag-house dust filters were given in small capacity within the scope of the offer.

Meanwhile, similar demands started to come from paper mills. Kartonsan submitted a request then company Modern Cardboard. The requests were in a single page, they did not include much technical information, they specified the desired  Mwe capacity and the location of the coal resource to be used. Everything, scope, coal detail, electrity connection information was expected from us.

We prepared the proposals, I first took them to each company myself, presented the proposals to their senior management, explained the project in their conference halls in the environment of their factory. I kept written down the notes of each meeting in the detail that it remained in my mind. I have taken these into my personal archive. These still remain on my 5.25 or 3.5 in floppy disks. While writing an article, I open it and look at my meeting notes.

After the first meeting, we went to Istanbul, Ksyseri, Bursa and Aydın textile factories as in a large team in case of serious demand, and we explained our project proposal. The buyer company teams opposite us knew about textile production, but they did not have enough staff for thermal power plants, the offers we offered for the machine maintenance staff, which operated most of their low-capacity fuel oil steam boilers, our proposals were too complex.

Other firms were also forced by the buyers to create competition, and other local firms started to organize themselves and make similar offers. Offers similar to our offers were requested from foreign companies. Their alternative offers and competitive prices were placed before us, we were asked to compare and give a better price.

In the end, the prices seemed much higher than the numbers the buyers could pay, the financial opportunities of the domestic market were tight, there was not enough credit. Projects were canceled one by one.

Some factories used the new natural gas facility and started to buy autoproducer gas turbines and waste heat boiler packages using natural gas. There were companies that left the textile industry and switched to electricity generation. There were even companies that invested in high capacity  thermal power plants using domestic and imported coal. We observed those who carried these energy investments to the Central Asian republics, Russia and Middle East countries.

Our textile industry has evolved over time, has become staffed, some of them have moved to the more profitable electricity generation sector. Technical Staff grew and developed, as profitability increased, investments increased. Looking back after thirty years, I think that the offers we prepared did not go to waste. We spent a lot of time, worked hard, we made very good offers. We didn’t get any orders, but we created the market together, we learnt together what could be what could not be done, why could be done, how can it be done? We learned these together, by trial and error.

During covid-19 times, rules are completely changed now. Overseas contracting is too difficult to execute. China can not participate in local tenders, they can not send sales people to negotiate, they can not send equipment to long distance destinations. So new rules are to be carried out, that is good opportunity for local business.

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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