Saturday, May 23, 2015

The new 'Thermal Power Plant' debate

Dear Readers,

The leasing tender is completed as of August 2012 for local coal firing thermal power plant under 49-year leasing scheme next to Soma Deniş open pit coal fields. Investor is expected to spend 900 million US dollars to install 3x 150 MWe thermal power plant close to the coal field to utilize the open pit coal. They are expected to put 25-30% equity and look for 75-80% external financing. According to their preliminary EIA report, the new plant is to generate 3.5 billion kw-hours per year to sell in the local energy market.

Soma Deniş open-pit coal field has 152 million tons of proven coal reserves with 1200-1500 kcal per kg lower heating calorific value. We estimate that proven reserves can feed the new thermal power plant for next 20 years. Deniş coal field also feeds as-received coal to existing 5-6 units of Soma-B plant each with 165 MWe output capacity.

The new thermal power plant will be designed in super-critical circulating fluid bed (CFB) technology in steam boilers complete with coal crushers, electrostatic dust collectors, fresh air and induced fans, one stack for two units, air-cooling tower, flue gas desulphurisation system (FGD), turbine- generators, main switchyard, main transmission lines to the national grid. Plant will have coal feeding and coal storage yard, fly and bottom ask silos, ash dam, or landfill area.

According to the contract which was signed by the highest bidder and the Privatization Administration, the investor will have a grace period to construct the plant not to exceed reasonable 6-7 years, then generate electricity and pay treasury 4.69 Turkish Kuruş (1 TL= 100 kuruş) per kw-hour electricity generated and sold to the national grid.

During construction period, plant will have approximately 1000 both qualified and unqualified workers, then will need approximately 500 qualified workers to operate.

Local Energy Market Regulatory Agency has received the license application of the investor, together with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report. EIA report has 500+ pages explaining every detail in the environment except the olive trees. The report also put a justification why they first selected the construction site near YIRCA village. License application is approved, then the company entered the area and ruthlessly cut 6000+ olive trees. Politicians compared the 500 years old sacred olive trees' contribution to the society with thermal power plant which has practically 2-3 years of uninterrupted life span. That was a misfortunate comparison with no reasonable justification.
We expect thermal power plants to run almost 30 years, but for some reason due to operation failures, they can not exceed 20-years in practice without major overhaul or rehabilitation. Most of the times, they even can not exceed 10-years problem-free.

Today, inexpensive poor design thermal power plants barely exceed 2-3 years temporary acceptance period without major breakdown. East Asia contractors have poor design, poor quality, insufficient spare parts, insufficient number of feed pumps, poor instrumentation and control systems in their super cheap price proposals. In operation, their coal mills brake down, blowers do not work properly, computers are quickly distorted, electrofilters are selected small, they are inefficient. E/P electrodes erode fast, hence they do not meet desired flue gas dust limits, FGD units are not adequate, and in the end they start to pollute the nearby environment, air, water, soil. In their inefficient poor designs, everything is indexed to be the cheapest. Such inefficient designs, such poor quality, poor material supply do not meet high quality North American or West European standards. Why do we except such poor deliveries? Why don't we prevent through our supervisory authorities? Why do we deserve such poor quality products?

YIRCA farmers stood up to protect their farm lands, for their centuries old olive trees, for their nearby habitat, for their life style, and applied to the local courts to stop thermal power plant construction in their farm lands.

Selecting farmlands of YIRCA was correct from investor point of view. The land was on the main highway, close to the existing power plant to use the same facilities, the same switchyard, the same transmission lines. It was also close to the existing coal feeding conveyor belts from Deniş to the coal yard of the existing power plant.

But it was the wrong choice for YIRCA farmers. The new thermal power plant would offer limited new employment opportunities, other than inexpensive security guard posts which do not need qualified training or technical education. Farmers would loose their agricultural land, their olive trees, their way of life, their beautiful pasture. In the end they lost their olive trees unfortunately, which was sad and undesirable. The new olive plants will need at least a few decades to get matured again to give proper olive products. A political price will be paid in the upcoming general elections on 7th June 2015 certainly.

I spent my professional life in Soma coal region in years 2000-2002. There are forest land and agricultural regions on the west and south of Deniş open pid coal fields. East is empty, there is no major settlement, not major forest or agricultural activity. There are agricultural facilities and forest in the north.

We get news that the investor considers to occupy the northern land for the thermal power plant construction, on the agricultural land between Kayrakaltı and TürkPiyale villages. There is no fresh water nearby other than underground for the agriculture, there is no empty land for ash dam. The region is far to the Deniş, new conveyors and new high-voltage electricity transmission lines, new highways for heavy equipment transportation are to be constructed. The land is surrounded by forest. The new location is not a correct choice. We want investors to make intelligent decisions, not to make mistakes, not only for themselves, but for the society in the long term. Investors are to employ best experts to advise them the best choices. These experts should have spent their past experiences in power plants, not on desk jobs at ministries.

Thermal power plants should not be constructed on agricultural land, never on forest land, never on olive trees, never on archaeological sites. We cannot rely on public authorities only for regulating the investor choices. Public servants evaluate the projects on dossiers presented to them in written. They do not have allowances to travel and inspect the site if appropriate. The most of the time, same as everywhere in the world, there are obvious incorrect, falsified, missing informations in the license applications, as well as in EIA reports supporting such license applications. Local NGO groups are to be involved in the approval sequence and they must have right to object if project and site selection are not appropriate since they know the local details better than anyone else. They also defend the rights of the local forests, farmland and the farmers.

Furthermore Turkish sugar producer "Konya Şeker" Company placed the highest bid of 685.5 million US dollars (or 582.5 million Euro) in the tender for the privatisation of the existing 990 MWe Soma-B thermal power plant in the western province of Manisa, Turkey’s Privatisation Administration said in January 2015.

Oberstdorf, Germany, 23 May 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.


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