Turkey’s Yeniköy Thermal Power Plant, A Rehabilitation Story In Year 1994 – OpEd


In August 2021, there were  wild forest fires in the south west corner of Turkey. We tried to extinguish them for days, soot ash fell in the sea of ​​Datça Aktur Kurucabük, the nearby region was covered with smoke, in the morning the balcony table covers were filled with fly ash. Fire extinguishing airplanes stepped in, our forestry workers, firefighting workers, local people sacrificed and put out the fires. From now on, we need to learn from our past mistakes and nasty experiments, and to work smarter and more informed.

Today, I would like to share with you my past experiences on Yeniköy Thermal Power Plant in south west corner of Turkey. I will try to avoid or minimize technical jargon/technical terms as much as I can while telling the story.

On 19 December 1994, at the invitation of the thermal power plant management, we visited the site with supervisor Mr. Barney Baker from Babcock & Wilcox Ohio, USA.

In the southwestern corner of Turkey, there are three thermal power plants close to each other, designed to produce Yatağan 3×210 Mwe, Yeniköy 2×210 Mwe, and the last thermal power plant on the seashore in Kemerköy, designed to produce 3×210 Mwe.

We stayed in the thermal power plant’s guesthouse for 2 nights and 3 days. We had protective heavy-duty clothing, overalls, hard hats, protective gloves and hard-toed steel shielded shoes to inspect the boilers. We examined all steam boilers one after the other, almost every inch from the combustion chamber bottom wall to the four side walls and roof/ceiling wall. Let me try to explain what we finally found,

The original contractor, so-called reputable company, designed the boiler and hardly put any expansion compensation on the walls of the boiler water tube walls. In simple words, the water tube walls of the steam boiler combustion chamber are heated when the fuel (lignite coal) is ignited, the boiler pipe walls heat up, they want to expand, but they cannot expand because there is not enough expansion mechanism, so they bend, take a round shape or even break under very heavy heat load.

This was the case with all the boiler walls, geometrically the expansion was compensated on the side walls, but the deformation was very evident in the roof, where the entire roof surface was all sinusoidal surface, like a rough sea wave.

In all thermal power plant boiler designs, you put a certain compensation/expansion detail/mechanism in each direction to compensate for the expansion.

This missing detail was replicated in all other nearby power plants built by the same contractor Designer  company, unfortunately not fixed.

The power plant engineers were aware of this important problem, but they neither made a fix nor attempted a solution.

The other major problem was the low quality local lignite mine coming to the power plant. The power plant was designed to burn lignite with a lower calorific value of around 2000 kcal/kg and lower. Due to the unsorted non-combustible materials in the incoming lignite, it decreased to an average of 1000 kcal/kg lower heating value. The lignite from the mine site should be cleaned, stone, soil, etc. should be cleaned. should contain water flotation process etc. should have been enriched with, however none of which had been done.

In the open coal mine, as the ore is taken as received by the machines, it is fed to the power plant, and no pre-selection cleaning is done.

All non-combustible materials (stone, soil, earth, etc.) were ground and fed to the  steam boilers. The plant was feeding an unnecessary amount of additional supplementary  fuel oil to burn the poor quality lignite in the boiler.

The third missing issue was the insufficient number of soot blowers. You should steam clean the boiler walls every eight hour shift. The incoming lignite had a high calcium content. It was a misoperation that wall cleaning was almost minimal due to the adhesion of the calcium compounds to the boiler wall and the insufficient number of steam-blown sootblowers. The result was high drop in power output from 210 MWE at full capacity to 150 MWe within a few months. The power plant was then  stopped and the inner surfaces were cleaned with pressurized water for 1 month each time before operating it again.

So the power plant needed major rehabilitation, expansion details would be added to all walls, especially roof water pipe walls, more soot blowers would be installed, and the incoming poor quality lignites had to be washed, rehabilitated, cleaned before being fed.

On our return to our offices, we prepared our field report with photographs and sketches and submitted it to the power plant management. For all of these field works, we usually had to charge a cost of travel expenses, as per our company policy, we did not receive a fee, nor asked for.

There were insufficient dust filters, an unreasonable amount of boiler pipe failures, no flue gas desulfurization plant. Local environmentalists reacted and the public institution responsible for power plant operation decided to stop the operation of the power plant in all three power plants.

The public management then wanted to sell the power plants to private companies for a while. Nobody wanted to buy these old power plants in the beginning. Plants needed expensive wide range rehabilitation. Then the world bank announced a rehabilitation fund to rehabilitate the facilities, with some addition by the public administration.

Eventually all three power plants were eventually sold to private companies. The new private operators in the area produced electricity for a long time, they did not invest in environmental equipment by taking refuge in the exemption scope, then they went to invest in environmental equipment due to enforcement of environmental legislation. We do not know how accurate these expenditures are.

In a market economy, you don’t work with a fully privately owned customer who is not performing well, is delivering a bad product, a bad system. There is a saying, “You can’t cheat a customer twice, it’s impossible three times”.

If a company can receive a very important order to build a high-capacity thermal power plant, but cannot deliver the expected performance values, it will not work if you do not disqualify them in the second power plant and then invite them to the third power plant. All three power plants cannot show full performance now. Then you invite them to rehab. You should disqualify them from the very beginning.

Now we have rehabilitation activity with a high US dollar budget. You try to get the best for the cheapest, the cheapest outweighs, and the best is ignored.

After evaluating the offers, you invite the original supplier to rehabilitation, as their prices are the lowest.

Rule. You should definitely not invite the original company to the rehabilitation tender.

Rule. You should not give the job blindly directly at the lowest price.

Rule. A company cannot rehabilitate the domestic power plant where you worked  and operated for years.

These firms build operate, take their money or go to arbitration and leave the country and never come back.

You should not wait this long for the rehabilitation of the power plants.

Local public R&D funds will be spent for this purpose to develop local engineering.

Pay your junior engineers properly, they work much better for a local success as elsewhere.

Foreign companies can flee in case of performance failure, local companies cannot escape, they are bound to succeed.

Alongside your own engineering skills, you gain local experience and expertise to use your local coal mines.

Never leave your market to complete strangers, take control of your own market.

Take control for the correct operation of your power plants, make design changes by yourself, be sure what you are doing.

World Bank funds are not free, we will repay together

Rehabilitation work is not very difficult, this is not space technology. We are talking about some boiler tube bundles. A country with an F-16 manufacturing facility can do business in thermal power plants much more easily. Our young engineers can do much better, they are no different from other colleagues, I believe they are even better.

At Yeniköy thermal power plant,

You will add expansion joint details to all boiler pipe walls to prevent pipe failure.

You will add plenty of soot blowers to clean and operate the boiler interior surfaces.

You will clean the incoming poor quality lignite before feeding the boiler, you will sort out the non-combustible stony soil-like materials,

You will trust your own young engineers, you will give them sufficient hardware and software tools for the right design,

We engineers all use similar or the same software and hardware.

You will support local academics and local young engineers with public R&D funds.

You will support your local firms to carry out all design work,

If you do these, you will not be at the mercy of foreign designers or contractors.

If you don’t, tomorrow others will do your homework on your behalf.

There is no coal left in the Yatağan power plant area. There is  danger of destroying nearby ancient cities to open new coal fields.  This creates cultural disaster. The Yeniköy open-pit coal mine fields shrank in time as it also feeds the Kemerköy power plant. There is no coal reserve around Kemerköy thermal power plant. Kemerköy is another example of coal fired thermal power plant without a local coal mine nearby.

Today, no one volunteers for new investment in old thermal power plants. Nobody wants to spend money. Banks do not provide financing, they do not give money. Everyone is just focusing on cash inflow. Subsequent environmental equipment is not compatible. Most 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 more new that can be done. This is the 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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