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Turkey: Appropriate Boiler Technology For Local Coal – OpEd


Contrary to popular belief, in Turkey we have reliable low-calorific-value domestic coal firing thermal power plants that have proven themselves over the years in their long-term operations. We have them, so let’s name them:

Soma-B #5-6, Seyitömer #4, Kangal #3, Afşin-B.

Operating for the last 20-30 years, all of these plants are very reliable in firing domestic low-quality coal. Up until now they have solved any problems that have arisen in their burning of low-calorific-value domestic coal. They may have some other shortcomings, and these should also be solved in time.

  • If they have difficulty in soot blowing, they should acquire more soot blowers.
  • If their dust filters don’t meet emission standards, they should build bigger dust filters.
  • If they don’t have flue gas desulphurization (FGD) technologies, they should get them.
  • If their NOx emissions do not meet required national standards, they should add Low-NOx burners, and if this is still not enough, then they should install a selective catalytic reactor (SCR).

Investors who have invested in new domestic coal firing thermal power plants have not disclosed the results of their investments so far. There are neither success stories nor announcements of high efficiency; there is no information on the progress of these projects. Leaked news is not so encouraging however. Once a big thermal power plant project is completed, the project results are shared by everyone. This is an acceptable exercise in public relations, an acceptable way to advertise to the market.

We read the reports, academic papers, listen to conference presentations, and we congratulate our peers and share their experiences. Over the past 10 years, new investments have primarily focused on on circulating fluidized bed (CFB) technology, but nothing has been disclosed about these investments to the public.

On the other hand, there are lots of presentations, commercial and academic papers, articles, and news reports on CFB technology itself, and all of this is available for public access.

Yet there is a piercing silence on this technology’s application in Turkey when it comes to the investments in indigenous coal firing power plants. Until now, nobody has explained anything. Billions of US dollars have been invested in these plants. Yet there is no technical evaluation, no information, nothing. After evaluating the secrecy with which this situation is being handled, my humble comments are as follows.

It is clear that our low-calorific-value local coal with 50-55% moisture (water content) is almost impossible to fire without pre-heating and dehumidification. It can’t be fired properly without installing dewatering systems. Excessive amounts of supplementary oil-fueled firing is necessary to fire the coal if delivered to boiler combustion chambers as is.

In this sense, companies from the Far East offered their off-the-shelf CFB designs to our local investors as a panacea, backed up by cheap prices and cheap financing by their Exim banks funds.

They impressed our local investors with their ultra cheap prices. However, their CFB technology is not capable of firing our high-moisture, low-heating-value local coal. So in the end, top management decision-makers at local investor companies are aware of this situation, and because they made these incorrect decisions, they don’t want to make a sound until they retire.

Your writer believes that the appropriate technology to fire our domestic coal can be found in the 4x350MWE producing Afşin-B plant, which employs “indirect pre-heating pulverized coal firing” coal combustion technology. The German Company that designed this technology went bankrupt due to various financial reasons at home. The company withdrew from the market and is not active anymore. But the designers and engineers of this technology are still working in the commercial environment.

This company’s subcontractors, Turkish companies, upgraded their standing and became leading engineering companies serving worldwide in the construction of new thermal power plants. There are also other reputable local companies with similar references.

Our experienced engineering contractor companies can recreate the original designs very easily in time if the opportunity would be given to the private entrepreneurship. Those companies can also employ the original designers in their local design offices as expatriate consultants if need be. In this way, we could ask our engineering companies for their quotes for 150-350 MWE thermal power plants. I believe that they have such a capability to deliver in time.

Our local engineering companies have a sufficient number of references, ample work experience, and strong competencies. Therefore we should employ domestic engineering, fabrication, construction, contracting, as well as domestic labor. We all know that there are hundreds of thousands of engineers working in international contracting companies. We can bring together the same number of local engineers. Foreign companies employ people like us, there is no difference.

After an overseas construction job is completed, the international contractor normally fulfills the contractual requirements, operates the plant during the commissioning phase and temporary acceptance period, receives the final acceptance, and then leaves the plant. After that the operator is left alone to run the plant and to deal with all the problems that arise in time.

If the contractor is in the home country, then they are responsible for operating the thermal power plant during its entire operation, maybe for 20-30 years. Contractors have to solve every problem and satisfy the client at all times in cases when accidents or troubles arise. If they do not, then the client not only stops working with that company, but expresses to all others in the market their displeasure. This results in a veritable death sentence for the contracting company.

Continuous work with your client keeps you alive, fit, and helps you to improve your design and technology; and perhaps most importantly it makes you more competitive in the global market.

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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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