Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Need for Thermodynamics

Photo- Hatay iskenderun Energy Forum on 5th December 2009

Dear Energy Professional, Dear Colleagues,

If you are the Minister of Health, then it is expected that you should have a graduate degree from a leading University Medical School. Similarly, if you are the Minister of Justice, you should have a Law degree and many years of practice in courts. An engineer is not expected nor preferred to be a minister of Justice, or in Public Health. Such assignments can be possible theoretically but not desired or expected.

It is preferred that Foreign Ministers are to be graduates of International Politics of reputable universities, with further postgraduate degrees in the same field and multi language capabilities. Our new FM is a perfect choice due to his amazing university career. His book on "Strategic Dept" is an extraordinary intellectual output which describes our new political approach as “no-problems with neighbors”.

Likewise, our Minister in charge of the Treasury is another good choice with his graduate 4.0 GPA from the METU Industrial engineering department which was further reinforced with an MBA degree from a reputable U.S. business school.

On the other hand, anyone can be chosen as Minister of Energy and Natural Resources in our country. Reputable names of our political environment with post graduate degrees from Ankara University in the Department of Political Science have been assigned as Ministers of Energy in the past. No one asks, “Why? Are they capable?”

Even a lawyer was chosen as a Minister of Energy for three consecutive terms. During his term, we had arbitration disputes, and we paid costly consequences. During their time, they learned the energy business, but it proved to be a very costly education experience of the job.

Our previous Minister had a post graduate degree from METU Metallurgy Department. He knew metals, mining, metallurgy, and he had time to consume six years of the energy business in detail during his management.

I strongly advise that the Minister of Energy should have an engineering degree. He should also speak a foreign language, preferably English, and furthermore, his knowledge in Russian, Farsi, Arabic, and/or French is a plus. It is also preferable that he have a post graduate degree in international politics and international commercial law.

The most important item is that he should have taken undergraduate coursework on Thermodynamics, earning a top grade.

Last week I was in Hatay Iskenderun to participate and deliver a speech at an Energy Forum which was organized by the local branch of the Chamber of Turkish Electrical Engineers. The speech was presented on 5th December 2009, to an audience of more than 80 professionals. Most were local electrical engineers but also from other engineering disciplines as well.

By asking interactive questions, we had the opportunity to learn the experience and educational profile of the audience. We understood that all of them had received undergraduate courses on Thermodynamics since it is compulsory.

Our new Energy Minister is also a graduate of Istanbul Technical University and has a Graduate degree from the EE department, and he too for sure had compulsory Thermodynamics courses during his undergraduate years.

Please do note that the Energy Ministry is a public institution to serve but not a school nor a university. Any public employee, at all levels should have had sufficient graduate education. We should not reeducate the newcomers that “volt” is not “watt”, there is no such expression as “teravolt”, and “Megabyte” is not “Mega-Watt”.

We should not teach them the differences between power plants, CFB, IGCC, nor details of the Kyoto protocol. They should know that Nuclear Power plants are essentially thermal power plants with one cycle more in heat balance diagrams.

They should know that our country had no chance, no finance, no capability to build its own thermal power plants but all small East European countries have. At present, there are Far East companies appearing to build new imported coal firing thermal power plants on our shores at a fraction of international markets turnkey basis, complete with basic design, fabrication, outsourcing the key equipment, site construction, site installation, and even long-term operation.

One should know that we could not have our own nuclear power plant for the last 40 years since we could not build our own thermal power plants during the same period under our own engineering capability.

While we have unemployment complaints, how come we tolerate Far East companies bringing their own employees, mostly convicts/ soldiers, at minimum labor cost. It is not possible in Europe, Northern America, Russia, or in Arab Countries.

European countries require the foreign contractors to pay the minimum wage in European standards to their employees. That makes the competition fair. Our name is in the reference list of Far East contractors along with the least developed countries such as Sri Lanka / Bangladesh / Pakistan / Laos / Vietnam / Malaysia / Indonesia/ Central Africa / Sudan and Yemen. That is a real embarrassment to be on those lists.

If you can handle the basic design engineering and can do your own outsourcing, make the site construction in-house, use your local capabilities for site installation and external piping, under the prevailing international market figures, you can reduce your overall investment cost by about 25%.

Far East companies deliver technical drawing in their own language except the simple title block. Our engineers can not read them. Investors do not want to take operation risk. The new tendency is in making long-term operation contracts with the original contractors. It is the case now. This practice could be repeated in elsewhere soon. Local employment will be limited to the security posts at the main entrance of the plant.

European Trade unions protect the rights of their members. They also protect the local employment capabilities. Their political parties are very sensitive in these issues since they can not risk upsetting their voters; otherwise, they pay the consequences heavily.

If local trade unions cannot voice on these issues, then it becomes the responsibility of the Chambers of Engineers to speak up on behalf of local engineering for employment protection.

When we review the Environmental Impact Assessment reports, other than flora and fauna and all those unnecessary details, we read that the investment would create so many numbers of local employments. You feel happy that our countrymen will have employment; we shall have so many families and their dependants get money to survive.

When we complete the EIA report, and accept their application, we find that the investor places the final order to a Far East originated cheap design/ cheap supplier/ cheap contractor, and that cheap contractor brings thousands of employees (or convicts/ soldiers) to our land. The power plant supply also has a short lifespan due to poor material consumed during the project just to survive in the temporary acceptance period.

We should have continuous monitoring of Environmental Impact Assessment conditions during all phases of the project as well as periodical inspections during operation. That is a very serious issue.

We now have an unnecessary number of license applications for construction imported coal firing, new thermal power plants. Do we have the capability to have all of them on our beautiful shores?? Do we need them all??

How will they control their stack emissions, CO2 emissions, fly-ash dust emissions, or slug disposal? To what standards, to EU or to Local? Shouldn’t we have some reasonable limitations in numbers and capacities? Should we approve them all?

Energy is a very serious business. It is vital for the people. We should sincerely take all of those regulating procedures starting from licensing, continued in financing, tendering, environmental controls, construction and long-term operations. We need a qualified, experienced, highly educated public staff to monitor all these serious activities.

Honestly speaking, if I would be your Editor in a leading Newspaper in nationwide circulation, I would never allow a columnist to write an article on energy if he/she had no education in Thermodynamics in his/her undergrad university education.

Your comments are always welcome. Thank you and best regards.
Haluk Direskeneli, Hamburg based Energy Analyst


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