Sunday, April 26, 2015

Face to face verbal communication is the secret of success (Moscow 1976)

Dear Readers,
After spending more than 40 years in business environment, I sincerely believe in that "Communication" is an art. "Communication" is everything in business . "Communication" is the difference between human beings and the rest of other living creations. It is the key in "International Relations", that is why we created shuttle diplomacy. That is why "indifference" is an effective key weapon to beat opponents, and "precious loneliness" is not a solution in diplomacy..

I was in a 3-month technical training program in Moscow in year 1976, pure romantic Brezhnev years. I still believe that the City was real Moscow at that time, not like now similar to the rest of the world. People were real believers of their system. I was one of a few westerners in the capital. I was trying to learn Russian, however they were more eager to speak English with me, same as trying to speak other foreign languages. Therefore I had no chance to speak Russian.

I was staying in University Hotel (Gastrinistza Universitetskaya) close to monumental post-WW2 building of Moscow University. It was cold- very cold winter, full of snow everywhere. But Russians were all comfortable with snow and cold. They had big stone houses, all district heating, excellent public transportation, and reasonable accommodation for everyone, food and secure jobs for everyone. They had no idea of the outside world. They had vodka, they had books to read, records to listen, they were happy.

By the way, they had also extraordinary art, ballet. Russian ballet. The very next day I arrived to Moscow, I went to ticket box of Bolshoi theatre to check program and any ticket availability. There were a long waiting line, I could not recall now how long. It was day and night, a very long ticket line. For opera, for ballet performance, for any symphony orchestra performance. I could not understand how people could stay in that ticket line for so long at very cold temperature, even sometimes for nothing.

I lost all my expectations to see a real Russian ballet in Bolshoi Opera house. It was impossible for me to buy a ticket. Black market could work but I had no enough speaking practice in Russian language to negotiate.

I checked our hotel facilities. We had a service bureau to help foreigners. Service Bureau had one director Tovarish (Comrade) Nina, and three lady staff, Victoria, Natalia and Galia. Victoria could speak English, Natasha Spanish and Galia German, although they could speak other reciprocal languages fairly in case of emergency. I had created good communication with Victoria. Victoria was helping me to familiarize Moscow. She was married with kids, doing her service job in the hotel service bureau. I asked her if service bureau could help me to buy ticket to Bolshoi, whatever ballet, opera, and concert. It was impossible. Answer was "Nyet!!"

Hotel Admin had received a few tickets for every performance allocated for special foreign visitors. The distribution was unconditionally left to the Director Lady Tovarish Nina. Tovarish Nina was unapproachable. She was on top of everything. She had all power on everything including distribution of Bolshoi tickets. After one month in Moscow, I was completely helpless. I would not go to Bolshoi I tried everything, connections, embassy, even black market, and no hope. For ballet, you could not bribe Russians. It was more valuable than any other worldly possession. They could stay days and days in a ticket line to purchase one ticket for any performance.

I had only communication with Victoria who could speak English. One day I had an idea. I should speak with Lady Director Tovarish Nina direct with her own language. Since she is in the service bureau, she should speak at least one western language. Which one?

French. She could speak French. She had French major in the Moscow University. I had taken some French courses in my university but forgot almost everything. I had to refresh myself as soon as possible to communicate directly with the service bureau director Tovarish Nina. I checked my other foreign colleagues. We had one engineer coming from an African region (Ghana) with French cultural influence. He had good command of written French but he was speaking French in his own local West African dialect. Anyhow it was a minor problem. I should polish my French understanding as soon as possible. So I asked him to teach me some important French phrases for ice-breaking.

I practiced those phrases for one week in my free time. One early morning, when Tovarish Nina arrived to her office, I entered her office and I saluted her in French. "Bonjour Madame, je m'appelle Haluk d'Ankara en Turquie. Comment allez-vous?" I addressed her "Madame Nina". Madame Nina was very happy that day. At that period, there were no French speaking guests in the hotel. She could speak her foreign language with a foreign visitor. She told me her youth in the University, as tour guide for French party members, her meeting with famous French pop singer Gilbert Bécaud, her current job, her family, her husband, and her kids. She was not Tovarish any more, she was my French Lady Madame Nina and I was one of her special foreign guests in the hotel.

The next day, I asked a ticket for Bolshoi I was expecting only one ticket to Bolshoi She gave me one ticket on each remaining week of that month I had in Moscow. Carmen, Prince Igor, LaBoheme, SwanLake. Bolshoi theatre was (and still is) a cultural temple, not matching anywhere else. You should take a round trip to Moscow, just to see any performance whether it would be a ballet, an opera or any concert performance.

Thank you very much Madame Nina after all many years.

Oberstdorf, Germany, 25 April 2015
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), 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 ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How should we choose our new energy minister?

Dear Readers,

One might think that only an MD (Medical Doctor) should be appointed as minister of health, that the minister of justice should be a graduate of law school, that an artist/writer should be the minister of culture, etc. In fact, others might say that this isn’t the case because, in the end, ministerial tasks are management tasks. Ministers should pick good managers and surround themselves with talented technical staffs consisting of knowledgeable individuals in order to make themselves more effective in exercising executive power. Thus, technical issues can resolved by qualified, experienced and educated people that possess the technical competence to come to an informed political decision.

This way of thinking is not true in the field of energy. We have learnt from past experiences that the energy minister should be an engineer. The minister needs to have been present in various power plants, have worked in their operation, and moreover, he or she must have worked in the investment phase. Preferably, the minister should speak foreign languages, English first and foremost but also Russian/ French/Arabic. If the minister holds a post-graduate degree in International Relations/Law, it is even better. Most importantly, the minister of energy should have taken courses on “thermodynamics” throughout his or her studies.

Our current Energy Minister will not participate in the 7 June 2015 General Elections because of his party’s regulation that none of their members of parliament may serve for more than three consecutive terms. I personally appreciate the technical competence of our Energy Minister, who is a graduate of the prestigious Istanbul Technical University and an experienced electrical engineer by profession. When I met him at a public meeting, I asked “Did you take a course on thermodynamics during your college education?”, to which he responded, “Yes, I took the course from one of the best, so to say, a legend at the department”. I was very pleased.

In the past such a technical prerequisite was not necessary for ministers of energy. Technical competence and professional experience were necessary only for the Undersecretary. Our public administration was built in this way. Formerly, if a new minister was appointed, the undersecretary would remain. The undersecretary was not a party member. Undersecretaries were the memory and brain of their respective ministries. Ministers came and left, but the undersecretary was there to stay. Politicians appointed as ministers were able to express their preferences as to whom they thought should become the undersecretary of their ministry, but they didn’t have much say in the end.

Nowadays, ministers have the appropriate amount of education and necessary experience, and when they are appointed, they try to learn everything related to the work of the ministry. Ministers should make every decision based on the commercial and political environment, taking the initiative wherever possible. However, this is not the case in Turkey, but it seems to be this way everywhere else. Public-bureaucrats prefer ministers that do not interfere, but this is not good for the energy markets.

The post of United States secretary of energy also experienced a similar development process as our own. At first, politicians with law degrees were appointed as the US secretary of energy. Now, the Obama administration appoints scientists from outside of politics to this position. Former US Energy Secretary Steven Chu has received the Nobel Prize in Physics and he was a professor at Stanford University. Current US Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz is a professor of nuclear physics at MIT’s Energy Institute.

In Germany, the federal minister in charge of “Economy and Energy” is Sigmar Gabriel, who is also the chairman of the coalition partner SPD party. He is an elementary school teacher by profession. This post is based on political calculations for the coalition in the Bundestag. On the other hand, Chancellor Angela Merkel has a Ph.D. in “Quantum Chemistry” with her dissertation based on thermodynamic calculations. Could you imagine a prime minister with a Ph.D. degree in a scientific subject which mainly depends on thermodynamic calculations?

It is most likely very, very rare for an engineer to be appointed as “Minister of Health” or “Minister of Justice”. Such an individual cannot be expected to achieve success in such a post. Could you appoint a lawyer or a medical doctor as chairman of the Central Bank? No, because they would not possess the economic educational background that would enable them to understand the financial details associated with their field of work. But in the past, anyone could be appointed energy minister in our country.

Law School graduates have held the position of energy minister in the past, and nobody asked why. These individuals learned much of the energy problems facing our country during their tenure, but they made only limited contribution to the resolution thereof.

Thermodynamics” is a mandatory course for undergraduates studying Mechanical and Metallurgical Engineering, Chemistry, and Environmental Sciences at our technical universities. Other engineering students may take it as an elective course.
It is thought to be a very difficult course, however, if the student works in a systematic way, consistently attending lectures, completing the daily homework and studying every day, it is not at all difficult. It is for certain that those who procrastinate, waiting to study until the day before the exam, will not be successful in such a course.

The highest public office responsible for energy should be occupied by somebody who has taken thermodynamics courses during their undergraduate university education. Public office is not a place to receive an education. If a politician is appointed to head such a ministry, that politician should have achieved a sufficient level of university education and have gathered a significant amount of professional experience, both in advance.

It is not our responsibility to teach each newcomer to the energy market that a “volt” is not a “watt”, that there is no such concept as “teravolt” or that a “megabyte” is not a “megawatt”. We should not have to teach them the differences between thermal power plants and renewable energy resources, nor should we have to inform them of the details of the Kyoto Protocol. A stadium “tribune” and steam “turbine” are not the same thing.

Newcomers should know the current EIA criteria before coming taking this public office. Public decisions should not ignore environmental sensitivities. Wind and solar energy cannot replace base-load electricity generation in the long-term as they have intermittent production, and they need new specialized and expensive high-voltage transmission line investments that utilize expensive “Pumped-Storage Hydro Electricity (PSHE)” for load balancing. They should know that these specialized state-of-the art investments and their operations are not so cheap.

Nuclear power plants are basically thermal power plants. Our local market has not managed to build a nuclear power plant or a thermal power plant for over the last 50 years. Basic design and the fabrication of major parts for these facilities have always been curtailed due to the lack of local finance. Here, we are forced to buy obsolete, old technology to equip inefficient thermal power plants with low availability as they are financed by Eastern European or East Asian suppliers and supported by their export-import banks.

Our new minister of energy should know about global warming and environmental impact assessment norms and should take care to not build fossil fuel-firing thermal power plants on agricultural land, forests, land with olive trees, ancient archeological sites, or in the close proximity of touristic regions. Our minister of energy should realize that that environmentalist/popular slogans such as “Wind- solar energy is enough for us”, “Nuclear energy solves all our energy needs, if we could have started construction in 1970s then we would be building our own plants by ourselves by now”, “There is oil in our land, but foreigners are preventing us from exploring and utilizing it”, “Shale gas reserves will solve our energy needs within the next 5 years”, or “We found oil off our shores in the Black Sea”, are all urban legends with no applicable practical or technical basis whatsoever. We must build fossil fuel firing thermal power plants by ourselves completely, covering basic-detail designs, fabrication and site installation domestically. We are suffering from unemployment, yet we allow semi-qualified foreign workers, convicts and soldiers to construct power plants within our borders.

EIA reports are to be prepared in detail, submitted properly and evaluated carefully. In order to have the EIA reports approved and certified for their new power plants, investors commit and promise everything to the local people, whether employment, prosperity, low emissions, or no water, land, or air pollution, but when they receive approval, they forget their promises. This is not a problem specific to Turkey, it happens all over the world. Investment control mechanisms should be continuous, not only enforced by public servants, but also by local NGOs. From time to time, we notice political pressure being exerted for positive EIA results so that investments can be approved and commenced. Yet, how should we approve the ever increasing amount of requests to build new imported fossil fuel-firing thermal power plants, when they are expensive, their prices are floating, the fuel price remains unreliable, and they increase our current account deficit (CAD), which is already at intolerable levels. How can we just give investors the license to proceed?

Energy’s role in economic policy is a serious and crucial business. Energy investments, energy studies, petroleum explorations, pipeline constructions, domestic coal production, scientific and economic exploitation of domestic fuel sources, finding finance, and finding jobs are all very serious issues. To ensure our country’s prosperity we need to have experienced well-educated ministers with tested public staffs.

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

Ankara, 21 April 2015

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The 31-March-2015 Turkish Black-out is not the end of the world.

Dear Readers,
During the winter of 1991 I was working at an American-Turkish joint venture company in Ankara. We prepared a proposal to build a thermal power plant for a reputable Istanbulite firm. The company evaluated all the proposals submitted by interested parties and in the end it invited us to their head office in Istanbul in order to take part in negotiations on the final price that would be outlined in the contract. If a consensus was reached, the contract would be signed.On the day that we were scheduled to go to Istanbul we were experiencing heavy snowfall around Ankara. Commercial aircraft could not fly that day and we had made reservations for an overnight stay at the Hotel Pera Palas in Istanbul in advance.
When we inquired at the sales office of Ankara Intercity Coaches, we were informed that buses were still running. We bought tickets and were scheduled to leave Ankara at 17:00 on a nonstop bus to Istanbul. We set out under heavy snowfall. I had a big briefcase with me full of thick files and other documents of great importance. I didn’t stow this briefcase in the baggage storage below and it didn’t fit in the overhead compartment. I kept the briefcase just at my feet the entire journey.I was traveling with our company’s General Manager Jeffrey Green and we chatted the entire way to Istanbul. It was here that Jeff said: “People always make mistakes, they always make wrong decisions. Something may also go wrong that is out of one’s control, and it is futile to place blame. It is not important to express regret. The important thing is to take corrective action to eradicate the error that was made as fast as possible. Quick recovery is key in business.”
After stopping at Taksim Square at about 23:00, the coach continued down the road to the old city. We asked to be let off opposite the Hotel Pera Palas so that we would only have to walk a short distance to get to the hotel. We got off and the bus drove into the night. After a short moment I noticed that I forgot the briefcase on the bus.
I told this to Jeff, and without any sign of anger he said, “Let's take a taxi and catch the bus.” It was late, midnight, but within a few minutes we were able to find a taxi. We could estimate the bus’s route, so went in the Eminönü-Aksaray-Bakirkoy direction, and in about half an hour, close to Ataköy, we caught the bus. Upon retrieving the briefcase, we returned to the hotel and went to sleep. The next day, after long and tiring negotiations, we signed the contract.
The moral of the story is that when these misfortunes happen in business life it is important to amend the wrong by quickly taking the necessary corrective initiative. It is also important to learn from the mistake so as not to repeat it again. If you lose something valuable, you have to focus on finding it, and take away a lesson from the experience so that it is not repeated. In the worst case, you put everything on hold and renew the system completely. It is not the end of the world.

On 31 March 2015, we experienced such a misfortune, namely, a nationwide black-out which lasted almost eight hours. We now more or less know the reasons for the interruption. We are sure that the black-out was not the result of a computer virus or a cyber-attack on the computers of the national electricity transmission center.We know that the mismatched frequencies of high voltage electricity transmission lines could not be compensated for, as we had a break in the country’s main east-west high voltage transmission line. The system frequency fell in the western regions of the country and it rose in its eastern regions. We faced difficulties in loading and unloading demand.

On Turkey’s southern coast, a new and important thermal power plant with a generation capacity of 1200 MW was unable to resolve the ongoing feed pump failure that had become apparent the previous night. The same failure happened the following morning at 10:36, and the power plant was shut down entirely. With this, the national power system lost a great source of generation capacity and its frequency fell below the tolerable level. As a result, in the west, two more large base-load thermal power plants with capacities of 1034 MWe and 799 MWe were forced out of the system due to this fall in the nationwide frequency.
Turkey’s national electricity transmission company (TEİAŞ) dispatchers were unable to interfere as the available software at the main control center was ineffective in engaging in corrective intervention on existing transmission lines. The national grid fell piece by piece like dominoes, one after another in only a few seconds, until the system experienced a complete power outage that plunged the entire country into darkness. In order to protect itself, the European common energy pool (ENTSO-E) removed us from the system.
After an 8-hour interruption, the black start was realized. Yet before this,  fast trains, underground metro lines, traffic lights, airport control towers, hospital emergency rooms, and elevators could not be operated if they had no emergency power supply.
This chaos lasted 8 hours.
What would have happened if we had had nuclear power plants running during that period, producing more than 5,000 MWe each? What would have happened after our transmission lines transmitted no more power? How would we have protected our high capacity power plants?
We understand that there are weaknesses in our current energy transmission lines, as well as in our national control center. And we need to take corrective action.
Privately-owned thermal power plants with high capacity base-loads have the tendency to respond slowly when it comes to loading and unloading electricity generation. Due to their expectations for high profits, they are reluctant to obey directions.
Turkey’s public electricity transmission company needs greater staff training, and funding to update their software in order to control the overall system. When a situation occurs such as the recent power outage, certain members of the staff must be granted protections so that they are able to take urgent action.There is no need to place blame. Yet, now we see that instead of supporting the corrective staff, most of our energy is focused on individuals that have now become scapegoats. We do not find this correct. It is not right to ask that the general manager of Turkey’s national power grid resign, nor is it correct to dismiss the staff. An eight-hour power outage is not the end of the world. Nonetheless, we must learn from this unfortunate occurrence to prevent it from happening again.
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), 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 ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

Ankara, 15 April 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Turkey’s 2015 National Coal Policy

Dear Energy Professionals, Dear Colleagues,

In this article, we will strive to evaluate the new lignite, hard coal and/or imported-coal firing thermal power plants in our local market, explain operational problems, and recommend that new coal firing technologies be implemented for the best use and most efficient application of local coal in the new thermal power plant investments from 2015 onward.


Whereas coal constitutes a 25% share of the global energy supply market, second only to petroleum, it is first in the global electricity generation market, with a share of 40%. Locally, coal ranks first with a 40% share in the primary energy generation market, but fourth in the electricity generation market, with a 16% share. It is foreseen that coal will come to increase its share in global markets in the future thanks to new “Clean Coal Technologies”. As a matter of fact, coal is the most important indigenous fossil fuel in Turkey, therefore, with the best applicable use of advanced technologies, it should be utilized countrywide for greater electricity generation at a cheaper rate.

Reserves and Mining
Turkey has both hard coal and lignite deposits. The hard coal reserves are mostly located in the western part of the country, in the Zonguldak Basin, which has more than 1.6 billion metric tons of workable reserves, 512 million tons of which are proven and about 80% of which can be coked. Lignite deposits are widespread and plentiful throughout the country: reserves are estimated at more than 14 billion metric tons, 7th largest in the world, most of which are economically mineable, though only about 7% thereof have a heat content of more than 3,000 kilocalories per kilogram (LHV). In 2012, around 68 million of metric tons of lignite were produced annually. About 40% of the Turkey’s lignite is found in the Elbistan Basin.
Production and Consumption
The Turkish Hard Coal Institute operates five underground mines in Turkey, and is the only hard coal production entity in the country. The two most important lignite fields in Turkey -the Afşin-Elbistan and Sivas-Kangal coal fields- are owned by EÜAŞ and operated by private companies under contract.
Even though there is significant production of lignite and some production of hard coal in Turkey, not enough coal is mined to meet domestic demand.
As a result, Turkey imports more than 25 million tons (2013) of hard coal each year, mostly from Russia (33%), Columbia (24%), the USA (14%), South Africa (11%), and Australia (5%) as of 2012. Imported hard coal is used mainly for electric power steelmaking, and cement production. About 75% of the Turkey’s lignite is used as a fuel source for electricity generation.
Coal Technology and Coal Markets

Seeing that there is relatively little investment in coal fired power plants in the global liberalized markets, or at least investment priority is given to natural gas fired combined cycle power plants due to their relatively cheap installation-costs and faster construction periods, foreign dependency increases in countries which depend on imported fuel. Demand for more natural gas has also triggered the demand for more coal.

This greater utilization of coal has also necessitated the application of new coal technologies.We are now witnessing an obvious evolution in clean coal technologies. When we look at the available technology and new trends in market demand, the most important sector in the field of energy revolves around the development of new technologies. It has now become a new tendency for such leading technologies to be developed and applied not only in the advanced countries, but also in the developing countries, which are consuming more and more energy.

The energy technologies of West European as well as North American companies are becoming too expensive to export; soon these countries will not be able to sell their products on the global market. Even in their home markets, protective measures such as high import taxes and strict labor codes will need to be implemented in order to avoid an influx of cheap labor from abroad. In recent years, China, India, South Korea, and many other Asian countries have increasingly come to compete in the global energy markets.

The companies in these countries already assert dominance in their home markets with their self-made fabrications supported by advanced technology and fabrication licenses. Although their products are cheap, they have serious difficulties in fabricating the latest and the most efficient designs in compliance with environmental standards that are largely adopted across the globe. However, we can predict that these companies will soon reach these targets complete with the price advantage that they already possess in the first place.

We need to reposition our local energy market in Turkey keeping these new developments in mind. We have the engineering and intellectual capacities as well as the market potential for local fabrication. We must design, fabricate, construct, install, and operate our own thermal power plants that fire our own indigenous fuel.

In the past, we have prioritized attracting foreign investors that had the financial capability to cover power plant investment projects although their products were not the best of their kind, not the most efficient, and not designed to incorporate the latest technologies that would utilize our local coal. These plants have not been suitable when it comes to using our local fuel, whether lignite or hard coal, and hence they have aged quickly, very quickly, faster than the acceptable market norms.

Reputable western energy companies do not exist anymore, as they are either in bankruptcy, or unable to compete with the market players beyond their national borders. In recent years, Asian companies have presented increasingly cheap offers in thermal power plant tenders. If such an eastern company is prequalified in the pre tender procedure, western companies certainly hesitate to participate in the process as, in the end, it would be a waste of time and resources to go head on against such competitive players.

In this way, it is increasingly difficult to attract western technologies although they may certainly be desired. Price is of little importance to the new players; they are often unaware of the prevailing market figures, and hence, quote extravagantly low prices. Their labor costs for design and fabrication is extremely low. They have seriously effective market policies that allow them to infiltrate the global energy market.

It is often forgotten, or ignored, that the best design which allows for the use of local fuel is accomplished by tapping into one’s own local engineering capital, namely, local engineering and construction companies. Foreign contractors design the facility, commence construction, engage in site installation, and then wait for the guarantee period of 2-3 years to come to an end. Having fulfilled their obligations they then leave the site. The local operator remains behind, running the plant alone for the long term. It is very difficult to pursue long term rehabilitation and programmed repair works without the design/fabrication support of the original equipment supplier. Therefore, local design and fabrication are indispensable when it comes to long term operations.

Upcoming Energy Crisis

We all know that we are in the midst of an energy crisis; we lack a sufficient energy supply. Our resources are unable to generate the necessary amounts of energy. In other words, such a huge energy demand is not able to be met by our limited energy supply.

Here, the growing demand for renewable technologies, such as wind/solar, cannot be fulfilled quickly. These technologies will only enter the local energy market with time. Fast/easy/cheap solutions are not available, nor are they practical or feasible.

We must design our own thermal power plants, through the efforts of our own design teams,to operate using our fuels that are available locally, whether they be lignite or hard coal. We must fabricate the necessary equipment by ourselves in our own fabrication shops. We must take on site installation, and ultimately, operate the facilities by ourselves. Our local engineers are capable of handling the formulation and implementation of such plant designs.

However, we need to create a positive investment climate in the local market in order for this to be achieved. Local market forces should facilitate that these activities can be handled independently, in harmony with local investors, financial institutions, academicians, engineers, engineering unions, and contracting service providers. We need to take the initiative, not leave it to foreigners. We should not employ foreign contractors just because their labor is cheap. Our energy markets and our energy potential should be protected against foreign domination and incursion.

How to cover Project Financing

Financially, we have serious reason to support such an end-goal. We have genuine expectations that Turkey will have an electricity market based on real costs. Seeing that crude oil prices are immediately reflected in local petroleum byproducts, and that the consumers accept this burden in their cost calculations, the same will similarly be applied in all phases of the price structure of electricity generation.

When we evaluate the projections for the supply and demand of electricity for the next 10-15 years in Turkey, there are no new potential primary energy resources that could reduce the ever increasing prices. Hence, the short term electricity prices are expected to hover in the range of US$ 0.16 - US$ 0.20 per kWh in our local electricity market.

Considering their rehabilitation and renewal costs, the newly privatized thermal power plants will not help to reduce overall electricity prices in the short and medium terms.

Currently, more than 50% of the electricity generated in the local market is dependent on imported natural gas. Due to delays in hydro and coal-based power plant investments, those imported-natural gas firing thermal power plants are operating at base load. Unfortunately, this will increase the demand for more combined cycle power plant investments.

Prevailing Coal Prices on the Global Market

Thanks to the latest developments in technology, coal fired thermal power plants based on PC (Pulverized Coal) and CFB (Circulating Fluidized Bed) designs have reached 46%efficiency, and beyond, with the application of supercritical pressures and temperatures.

Imported coal at the prevailing market price of US$ 57-71 per ton, or spot price of US$ 4-5 per MMBtu, are now comparable with the prices of natural gas, at US$ 11-14 per MMBtu,that is used in combined cycle power plants generating electricity with 60% efficiencies. However, imported coal is indexed to oil prices and there is no reason to expect any drastic change in these price ranges in the medium and long terms. Therefore, we should not expect any decrease in coal prices any time soon.

In any case, one should keep in mind that the raw coal price of our local Afşin-Elbistan coal is less than US$ 1.80 per MMBtu as of 2014. Nonetheless, firing this coal in our thermal power plants located there is not so easy; this is supplemented by the fact that these plants are not so efficient. Specially tailored academic and commercial methods need to be explored and enforced to amend these deficiencies.

New Technologies for Firing Difficult Coal

IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle), CFB, Oxy-fuel firing, and underground gasification methods could be applied to our local coals with low calorific values. CFB, for example, has proven to allow an output of 165 MWe per unit.

Today, energy security is a major parameter that qualifies a country as independent. Energy security can only be achieved by a prudent combination and management of local natural and socio-economic resources in parallel with the implementation of the latest technology.

It is difficult to think that a country can protect its borders if its energy investment policy is fully import-oriented. Turkey has many energy resources but they are not easy to exploit. For example, hydro power in Turkey, while exhibiting great potential, requires careful and intelligent policies that take into account the impact of such projects on the environment and on local rural and urban areas.

On the other hand, our local coal mines have varying specifications, even when they are located in the same basin. Therefore, for better and more efficient firing of the available coal in these thermal power plants, we need to apply more expensive and selective mining techniques rather than our traditional, cheap mining methods. This is an expensive investment that is only observable in a few private operations in Turkey.

The traditional mining method involves the extraction of coal complete with a host of undesirable and unburnable materials such as sand, ash, moisture, etc. All new imported-coal fired power plant investors are major players in other sectors which are in need of cheap electricity. Therefore, they consume almost 60-70% of electricity generated within their own plants. The remainder is then sold on the national market; and this is not a problem seeing that there is always a need for more energy in our ever shrinking energy environment. Generally, local investments are realized by methods of “corporate finance”. Between 1993 and 2005, power plant projects exhibiting an overall installed capacity of more than 4000 MW have been realized. These natural gas firing, cogeneration plants pay for themselves quickly, thus freeing up more money for the use in further investments in new plants.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The energy policies of today’s administration prioritize the securement of the best quality, most reliable electricity for the local market at the cheapest rate. Considering this, the effective and rational use of local fuel resources is of vital importance as domestic energy planning is synonymous with planning for the future of the country, allowing us to avoid any foreseen economic crises.

We do not have the luxury to make mistakes in our energy policies, as any misstep will have severe repercussions down the road. While securing a steady supply of energy is the first priority, it is our sincere and humble opinion that new investments based on imported-coal are too risky. The construction of such facilities on the coasts of the Black Sea adds to this risk due to the increased coal prices on the world market and the limited routes through which coal can travel in the ever-congested Turkish Channels. Furthermore, Russian coal is not cheap and never has been.

We must be very careful in issuing Environmental Impact Report certifications as well as regulatory licenses. Plants should never be placed on forested lands. Any new and significant increases in a plant’s capacity and any fuel changes from local coal to imported coal should be carefully evaluated. Seaports where the unloading of cargo occurs should be carefully selected. The deep sea discharge of thermal plant bottom ash should also be avoided.

A Final Word

The best price is not the best choice for the long term, consistent, and cheap generation of electricity. Ankara, 31 March, 2015

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

"I Puritani" on Ankara State Opera House

Opera by Vincenzo Bellini (1835), A personal Opinion

Dear Readers,

In this incomprehensible chaotic local environment, opera and classical music, are probably the best engagement for us. It is better to be somewhat "indifferent" to daily events, local politics, to be a bit distant, to detox yourself, to watch opera to listen classical music more than listen to polemics bickering. President Obama is doing it, you see how "indifferent" he is, when faced with events that are beyond his control.

On 7 February 2015 Saturday evening at the Ankara State Opera House, a young college student sat next to me with a timid face expression. He asked me in a whisper, "Do you know the subject of this opera? I just left the nearby theater. I was passing by the opera house. I entered the lobby, asked the ticket box for any available seat, I found the ticket. I will watch the opera for the first time in my life." I told him briefly the subject of the opera. It is Italian "belcanto" (beautiful singing) from start to finish, full of wonderful songs and melodies. It is difficult for the singers to perform but a great pleasure for the audience. I added that the choir, and orchestra both performed very well.

Opera had Premier (first day on stage) night on 21 -February 2015 Saturday. This opera is a love story with dramatic events which took place in 1640 Cromwell period during the Battle of England, with good ending. Vincenzo Bellini wrote the opera in 1835. It was performed for the first time in 1846 in Istanbul during Ottoman period by an Italian group. It is the first staging now. Why Is That?

Because "I Puritani" opera is very difficult to perform in terms of artists. Especially long tiring lyrical Elvira and Arturo characters are difficult to play, and it is difficult to find singers to train them. The number of artists who have taken those characters into their repertoire are very few in the world. "I Puritani" characters we have in our opera repertoire of our artists, is a great gain.

Turkish Diva Leyla Gencer was one of best sopranos who sang the Elvira character. Leyla Gencer LaScala 1961, and Maria Callas 1950 NewYork Metropolitan CD soundtracks are advised to listen prior to opera night.

I watched the first five performances in order to understand the differences of the singers in Cast, as well as the minor details. Lead woman character Elvira is rehearsed by four Turkish sopranos. On Premier night, young beautiful soprano "Görkem Ezgi Yıldırım" played the Elvira character perfectly with her powerful lyric young clear voice. 

The same role played by "Eylem Demirhan" (twice), and "Esra Abacıoğlu Akcan" in the following nights.

Other soloists were our experiences cast of Ankara Opera house, Tuncay Kurtoğlu, Cetin Kıranbay, Savaş Gençtürk, and Serkan Kocadere.

Experienced director "Gürçil Çelikbaş" has remained faithful to the classical staging. The decor was reasonable enough, economically designed, and decor change was fast and easy. The 17th century England costumes were very nice and seemed close to the truth. However, costume designer should have to make special design for tenor "Deniz Leone" for his lead "Arturo" character

German conductor "Florian Frannek" had perfect harmony withe orchestra on five performances. Opera choir was strong, beautiful and exceptional. Carefully crafted costumes, decor were so nice with appropriate staging equipment compatible with lighting system. A feature of Ankara opera house, if you stay behind the curtain line, you get little choking sounds, singing over the stairs is very risky, your voice becomes not heard by the audience properly.

Izmir born, Milan resident tenor "Deniz Leone" played "Arturo" character in all five nights. He had some misfortunate inexperience in the Premier night. In the second and third nights, his voice was lost from time to time, he had to cope with health problems. On fourth and fifth nights, he was extraordinary with his clear powerful lyrical voice with his perfect Italian. "Deniz Leone" was certainly the real hero of this opera. It is not easy to take the stage for five nights in a row. He fought with himself to give us the best performance. He could not leave his place, because there was no one to replace. I congratulate him wholeheartedly.

I suppose that the student sitting next to me, liked the opera. He did not leave in the intermission, stayed until the end, and gave a long applause. For the love of opera, surely it is not necessary to finish the conservatory. Your author likes to attend opera, he has an open ear training with an average viewer-listener capability. He writes his impressions, whatever he sees, hears, feels, in order to present to his readers whether you like it, or not, all up to you.

In year 2014, "I Puritani" took place in Florence opera house in Italy. RAI5 television 3-hour broadcast is uploaded to "" available for all. Florence opera performance had a quite pessimistic staging, ours in Ankara is more optimistic, full of life and I believe that is better. The NewYork Metropolitan Opera staged "I Puritani" in 2007, with famous soprano Anna Netrebko. This year, "i Puritani" will be on stage at Wien, Catania, Madrid, Torino, Melbourne, and NewYork Metropolitan operas. Soprano "Olga Peretyatko" is getting good critics. One should watch the trailers in youtube.

After comparing the various performances in other opera houses, one will appreciate once again that our performance, singers, choir, orchestra are at least as good as the other opera houses. This opera creates a sort of addiction.

I believe that classical music and opera will make your life more beautiful. Do not worry about all unpleasant events which take place beyond your control. That will all goes by in time, this country witnessed many in the past.

"I Puritani" Opera will take the stage again on 30/03 and 06/04 in Ankara. Tickets are available through internet, released 15 days to the performance night. Please do write to me at all time if you have any comments. Greetings and best regards

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), 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 ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

Prinkipo, March-15, 2015
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