Energy independency is today the main element to qualify a country or a region independent. Energy independency can only be achieved by an intelligent combination and management of natural and socio-economic resources and technology. It is difficult to think that a country can protect his frontiers if his energy policy is fully import oriented.
This is also why some new energy technologies were historically developed pushed by political or strategic orientations or during political crisis periods, such as the development of nuclear energy in France after the second world war by de Gaulle, or the coal gasification and the subsequent liquid fuel production technologies developed in Germany during the WWII or in South Africa during the economic sanctions years imposed by the international community during apartheid.
Turkey has many energy resources but they are not easy to exploit as the mainstream fossil fuels, oil, natural gas or coal, are. The deepening of the hydroelectricity power in Turkey needs careful and intelligent policies taking into account its impact on the environment, the agriculture and the inhabited regions.
Turkey is a heaven of renewable energies but their development needs innovative technologies, large investments and a very intelligent socio-economic incentive policy. The intensive use of bio-resources for energy needs the careful evaluation of the competition between the use of crops for food or for energy and the impact on water resources, soil erosion and other environmental issues. Finally, the solid fossil resources of Turkey are mainly lignite of poor energetic and environmental quality.
The exploitation of the Afsin-Elbistan region lignites is therefore a challenge for the Turkish energy policy and independency. I offer below some notes I believe worth to consider when shaping the legal and techno-economic framework to ease the exploitation of these difficult resources.
1] What is at sake is the future of the Turkish energy policy and independency in the European context and more.
2] It is not possible for Turkey to not to have full control on the future Afsin-Elbistan lignite basin projects and the related technological development, energy policy, etc which are embedded in the outcome of future tenders for Afsin-Elbistan C&D phases. A Turkish consortium should lead such projects.
3] It is not possible to think about future Afsin-Elbistan thermal plant projects as a bis repetita of the Afsin-Elbistan A & B projects.
The thermal power plants that will be built within the C & D projects should last about 40 years. This means that the technology for the thermal power plants that will be built during this project should integrate the present cutting edge technology and, furthermore should be so designed to integrate later easily the technology under development today as a response to future technical, socio-economic and environmental constraints and regulations.
4] The envisaged technical capacities are very important: each power plant should have at least an installed capacity of 1200 MW (i.e. equal to the capacity of a nuclear power plant). The total lignite reserves dedicated to feed the plants for about 40 years is about 1 400 million tons.
5] The idea behind any proposal for new thermal plants aiming to use the Afsin-Elbistan lignites should be the IGCC concept.
This means Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plant.
In brief, coal is not fully burned but gasified (this is a kind of partial or incomplete combustion).
A mixture of CO+H2+CO2 gases arises from this process. This mixture can be directly burned in a gas turbine to produce power. The excess heat is used to produce steam for a steam turbine and power again (hence a combined cycle). Both gasification and combined cycle technologies are well mastered today.
There are also several IGCC plants working or under development
There are obviously some technical issues that should be better mastered (such as turbines fuelled by high H2 content mixtures).
The important issue with IGCC system is its high thermal efficiency and ability to reduce emissions (both SO2 and CO2).
During gasification as the O2 concentration is low, SO2 is not formed; instead H2S is formed which can be cleaned by known technologies so that pure sulphur can be extracted (which is a by product having commercial value).
6] Reducing CO2 emissions from thermal power plants is becoming an obligation at the EU level (hence the EU Zero Emission Plants platform; for 2020 all EU fossil fuel plants should be zero emission plants).
The best way to capture CO2 in the IGCC system is to convert the CO to CO2 before combustion and therefore combust only H2 as fuel.
The good thing with the IGCC technology is that it allows this possibility which can be included in the plant process at the beginning or added later when the economic conditions (CO2 taxes, etc) will render the CO2 abatement fully interesting (and mandatory).
7] CO2 is not a waste but a commodity.
It is already used in food, chemicals and fertilizers industry, among others. It is also used for EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) by pumping it to the oil or gas mines to ease the extraction of additional oil or gas difficult to extract without such a forced extraction. Other uses of CO2 can also be envisaged.
CO2 can be easily transported by pipelines. Therefore, for the Afsin-Elbistan project, if CO2 is captured it could be transported to Iraq or to Iran for EOR as a commodity (as a reverse flow to balance Turkish gas and oil purchases).
8] Another use of CO2 is the production of methanol by processing it with H2.
Therefore, several opportunities can be introduced by the IGCC technology to ease the introduction of a future H2 economy. First, the H2 obtained as a result of the gasification process can be used as fuel for power generation or as transport fuel (via fuel cells).
It can also be used to process the captured CO2 to methanol (which has several advantages compared to H2 in terms of safety, transportability, usability as fuel in the present heat engines, etc).
Also, in the Afsin-Elbistan region, river waters and solar energy can be used to produce H2 by electrolyzing water with PV electricity.
9] The IGCC system can be applied to coal/lignite but also to biomass or waste.
Therefore an IGCC plant can be considered as multi-fuel or fuel flexible. As the future Afsin-Elbistan tender conditions will oblige to recultivate the area after mining activities have been completed, such areas can be used to grow energy crops suitable for gasification.
Also, this strategy can be applied to areas surrounding the mining area to increase the energy crop yield and to revitalize the agriculture in the region.
10] Liquid transportation fuels can be produced starting by the gasification process (from the syngas) continued by processes such as Fischer-Tropsch and others. Transportation fuels (including aviation fuels) can therefore be produced from the syngas obtained by lignite gasification or by biomass gasification or by their co-gasification.
11] The Afsin-Elbistan IGCC project may enable Turkey to be a leader at the EU level within the Zero Emission Plants technology platform, by proposing an industrial scale demonstration unit for FP7.
12] Such a project will also have the support of environmentalist groups (NGO’s) which favor today clean fossil fuel technologies (IGCC with CO2 capture).
Courtesy of Iskender GÖKALP, Directeur
ICARE- Institut de Combustion, Aérothermique, Réactivité et Environnement
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (UPR3021)
Centre National de Recherche Technologique "Propulsion du Futur"
1c, Av. de la Recherche Scientifique
45071 Orléans Cedex 2, France
tel: 33-(0)2 38 25 54 63
tel mobile/cellular: 33-(0)6 89 09 76 62
Fax: 33-(0)2 38 25 78 75