Coal Plant Without Coal: Only In Turkey – OpEd


How is this possible?

The answer is very simple. The investment is made in the person, company or project that multiplies the money you give. It is not done to the person, company, or project that will sink, spend, downsize the money that you give. 

Would you invest money in a coal-fired power plant today? Is it possible to invest in a thermal power plant that constantly absorbs money and does not grow the money you give? Most thermal power plants still operate with high amount additional/ supplementary fuel oil support. The efficiency of most environmental equipment investment is uncertain. Most of them have no coal left in their coal fields.

The Yatağan coal reserves at south west of Turkey are depleted, Soma Deniş, Kangal, Kışlaköy, Tunçbilek coal reserves all consumed. Most thermal power plants have already reached the end of their economic life. There is almost no coal left.

The electricity they produce is too expensive compared to market averages. However, with the support of the capacity mechanism, prices relatively may stand. Most of them now need to be closed down and sold for scrap.

Afşin Elbistan-B is one of the best thermal power plants operating today, maybe the first. Would you invest money in this power plant? The E/P dust filters of Afşin Elbistan -B power plant are large enough and they all work well. They have flue gas desulfurization equipment and they work well. There is coal dewatering technology. The coal is dried and its calorific value is raised, then burned in the combustion chamber. The need for additional supplementary fuel is less.

However, the lack of Afşin Elbistan -B power plant, is that there is no coal here. It used to exist in the past, but now it is not. A landslide occurred in the nearby coal field of Çöllolar in 2011, and the coal field was closed. The field can no longer feed coal. Coal is transported here from the Kislaköy field, which is farther away, or often from other coal fields, very expensively.

In other words, there is a good designed thermal power plant, but it is without coal. This power plant has no ash dam, no place to stockpile the ash. Coal would be taken from the Çöllolar power plant and the ash from the power plant would be stored in its place. When the Çöllolar coal field was closed due to the landslide, the ash was left behind, there is no place to store it, and the ash dam that needs to be built does not exist.

This power plant is built on the coal field, the transmission lines are also on the coal field, however, it is impossible to extract the coal under it. The Çöllolar field should be put into operation, starting from the side where there was no landslide, the field should be reactivated. If this cannot be done, plant B must be completely closed and sold as scrap.

Would you invest in an imported coal thermal power plant? The price of imported coal is determined in international markets. If all goes well, if the economy is good, then prices are low. If the price per metric ton of high calorific South African or Australian coal with an average lower calorific value of 6000 kcal/kg falls below approximately US$60 per metric ton, the million BTU price will be at a reasonably competitive level and the power plant will sell reasonably the electricity generation kw-hour price.

This is like gambling, good investors don’t gamble. No money is invested in the thermal power plant that will only work with the support of the capacity mechanism. That’s why imported coal power plant investments are being canceled one by one through out the world.

Buying an old existing power plant is like earning without working. Those who do not install the power plant do not know its value. They are just looking to make cash money. They delay the investments to be made in environmental equipment, they do not give good wages to good employees. Somehow, they don’t know the value of the power plant they have, they operate it, spend it and lowers its value. Electricity production is expensive, and continuous new cash money inflow is required with the application of a continuous capacity mechanism.

Half of the Elbistan coal content is water, the rest is ash, and there is very little flammable material. It’s not coal, it’s like a black snowball. Its lower calorific value, is around 500-1000 kcal/kg. No thermal power plant can be built anywhere in the world with a billion dollar investment for such poor coal. In the beginning, there was no technology suitable for this coal, but no one noticed.

Whoever has convinced our public decision makers has done well. Today we have two power plants that are barely working. The coal field of one has shrunk, the other has had a landslide and is not working. In return for all this, we destroyed the third largest agricultural plain of our country. If agriculture was still being done in the Elbistan plain, we would have obtained a huge amount of agricultural products.

Renewable energy sources are just like the educational investment you make for your child. Invest money in wind/ solar/ small hydro resources, just like your education investment for your child, you do not pollute the environment, it has a good return. You won’t regret it. The people of my country, who had negotiated forty times for goods, services, products and even software for three cents, did not speak out for the decision to build two large power plants with billions of dollars from their pockets.

The people of my country could not know the thermal technical details, the public decision makers who decided on their behalf signed these wrong decisions for the sake of three or five overseas trips and gave their approval. The newly rich of the market are investing in thermal power plants with no future, with the wisdom of self-appointed advisors.

Most of the wrong, depleted old thermal power plants have no growth capacity, as well as no return capacity. Electricity is produced expensively, they constantly ask for additional money subsidies with the capacity mechanism. Their situation is a black hole, a bottomless pit. These investments are made in vain.

Today, nobody volunteers for new investment in old thermal power plants. Nobody wants to spend money. Everyone is just focusing on cash inflow. Subsequent environmental equipment is not compatible. Most new equipment does not work adequately. In this case, old thermal power plants will work as long as they can, then they will be shut down. There is nothing new that can be done. This is the sad unfortunate unavoidable case all over the world.

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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