Thursday, June 30, 2016

#Simon Boccanegra, by Giuseppe Verdi, in Milan LaScala Opera

#Simon Boccanegra, by Giuseppe Verdi, in Milan LaScala Opera

Many years ago, I entered a music shop in Ankara Kizilay center, and asked CD with La Diva Turca "Leyla Gencer" singing any opera. Music Shop Clerk said, "We have no studio recording, since she avoided at all times, but we have an available recording only in live broadcast of "Simon Boccanegra" by Giuseppe Verdi where Leyla Gencer was singing Amelia character in Salzburg opera house in year 1961. I purchased the CD with no prior information on Simon Boccanegra. The opera was composed, first played in Venetian opera house in 1859, ignored and forgotten in time, then renewed by the composer in 1881 for LaScala but forgotten again.

La Diva Turca Leyla Gencer preferred to sing in forgotten operas, and she avoided any studio recordings. The other diva of LaScala, soprano Maria Callas has many clean studio recordings of popular operas, whereas Leyla Gencer loved to sing forgotten operas with no studio recordings. CD at my hand was a poor recording of live opera performance, filled with unwanted background sounds, coughs, applauses. Leyla Gencer had accomplished a difficult job for this opera.

Simon Boccanegra, nowadays is a very popular opera. Great tenor / baritone Placido Domingo (75) sings and creates great news. The artist plays alternately in Milan LaScala and New York Metropolitan. He did not coincide with us, but the cast we watch was also very good.

Leo Nucci baritone character in Simon Boccanegra, Amelia was played by beautiful soprano Carmen Giannattasio. South Korean conductor Myung-Whun Chung was amazing. We should not forget extraordinary Stage Director Federico Tiezz. Each choir members played different characters. Performance had a great big scene reasonable size unobtrusive decor, costumes of the 13th century were great.

On 22- June 2016 on Wednesday evening, we were in LaScala opera house in Milan for Giuseppe Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra". We watched the opera from the first balcony lodges. We received our Internet tickets at 19: 00, from the box office. Main doors opened at 19:30. Ushers had wearing a black gown custom assemblies, guiding and directing us to our seats. Audience were dressed very carefully in serious formal business suits, ladies in night dresses. Usher opened the balcony door to the lodge. We occupied the front seats.

Opera began and then an angry lady cry was heard with verbal criticism revealed from one balcony. In LaScala tradition, we understand that loud critique of the audience can appear instantly, artists would appreciate it to get critics. Poor performing conductor, detour singer, the poor decorator, costume designer , even though all stage directors may receive such criticism live and loud instantly. The orchestra was great, we had great acoustics in the space. We do not know how we spent 3-hours.

During half an hour intermission, we went down to the foyer due to curiosity.  Foyer was small. opera shop was open for sales. Opera shop was selling all articles that come to mind about opera, CDs, DVDs, books, souvenirs, what were you looking for. Last EMI recording CD Simon Boccanegra was tagged at 25 €.

Italian artists were saying and as if showing us that "Opera is to be staged so, this is how you should play, and present a great opera" they taught.

We had a great scene, reasonable decor, wonderful cast, great acoustics, individual choir members with separate theatrical performance. After seeing LaScala performance, I am quite uneasy, displeased, and felt quite unsatisfied with opera performances at our home country.

Opera was over. There was no car parking nearby, since that magnificent opera house was built 200-years ago when automobiles were not existed. All- black dressed business people, beautiful ladies in their night dresses, and we walked together though Gallery Victoria Emanuel to nearby Duomo metro station to reach our homes.

Prinkipo 30-June 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

PowerGen Europe 2016 in Milan

Dear Readers,
On 21-22-23 June 2016, I participated to PowerGen Europe Conference and Exhibition in Milan (Italy). I came with my wife to Milan before Conference. We found a comfortable small apartment at reasonable price for one week close to the exhibition. We visited Milan city museums, parks, shopping venues, Duomo, Churches, Opera, on the weekend together on foot,
I met with numerous domestic (Italian) and foreign energy professionals during the conference. I exchanged information. I listened to speeches and watched presentations, demonstrations. There were many business professionals from Turkey. However there were also cocktails to join, free drinks everywhere, lots of face to face communication to exchange off-the record information, gossip etc. There were people who came not only for fair but also for travel leisure for holiday shopping in Milan, world center of fashion. Majority of technical people in the company booths were not sales people, hence they did not know sales psychology. A technically trained people can not be a sales people overnight. Most of them did not know how to respond questions, how to talk. They were entering extra long presentations, boring conversations, giving unnecessary informations, lots of details. Some of them were not interested in any conversation, as if in the mood just waiting to leave and go to shopping. There were people who were interested in collecting free promotional stuff only, pens, book, catalogues, shirts whatever available. There were all types of people with no culture in good manners, holding seats at resting places, responding in rude and bad manners. Most of them did not know any foreign languages, asking lady translators to help them. Unfortunately most of those ladies were not able to translate the details of the technical jargon. Most sales people were not trained upfront what they were supposed to sell, they were unable to answer simple questions, they had catalogues filled with nonsense outdated empty information.
Among senior professionals, we exchanged plenty of first hand market rumors in face to face interviews. Just a few words or sentences were enough to relay some critical information. We understand that outdated technology was finished, prices were remained too expensive. Nowadays old, big, too cumbersome firms are about to leave the energy markets. I'm familiar with old professionals. Some of them were separated from the company, retired.
They were looking for new opportunities to get hired elsewhere. However they were illiterate in new software and information environment.
Far East company officials were quite eager to push the market. However they were speaking with their weird native accent, and could not communicate properly. In order to overcome that difficulty they hired mother tongue English speaking sales people however these people were unaware of the technology they were in for sales. On the other hand, Germans, French, Spaniards, were not comfortable talking other than their native language.
Exhibition area covers two large halls. Visitors, and exhibitors were from various countries. I met with many professional friends from my home country, I visited their booths to talk, to exchange news, gossips, to feel the market. I sensed that our engineering companies were in financial difficulties. In most of them, ownership is changed during project execution, they could not pay money they borrowed and they had to sell the majority stake to the company they owed. Serious ones were struggling for survival. We have available human capital, intellectual accomplishments, and there are international financial groups who were waiting to buy these blue chip engineering establishments. I could not see or meet with any serious investor from my home country. Similarly I could not come across with any ministry of public official in the conference. There were all vendors, but unfortunately there were a few investors or purchasers. On the other hand our contractors were quite good in overseas business to build new industrial or power installations.
Major foreign equipment supplier companies have sensed the market tendencies earlier that we were. One of them said to me, "We are dealing with the same technological garbage, over and over again". They are fearing the ultra low cost similar equipment as produced by Far east companies with or without western license. Western companies are quite comfortable behind their custom walls, but they are trapped there. Their home markets are saturated. They can not supply overseas. They can not sell in international markets.
In this year's exhibition, I was very pleased to witness the growing number of companies from my home country. There were equipment manufacturers, contractors as well as engineering companies. Our big companies have now started to show interest in holding a booth in Powergen exhibition halls, encouraging their staff to make technical presentation, and they have proliferated in the exhibition toured. We all know that our country has a huge investment potential in the energy market.
In the past I used to have free Internet-cafe-like place. However now wireless internet usage was available for a fee. Everyone already has iPhone. WiFi is available standard in hotels.
The biggest US energy traders, the GT-ST (OEM) builders, manufacturers of high capacity boiler companies are still interested in our market. But now their prices remain very expensive. Similar equipment are available at a much more reasonable prices in the international market. As long as you can make the basic design by running a professional software, the rest is easy. US prices are quite high which makes them uncompetitive and difficult to make business overseas.
Foreign investors asked me the economy and the investment environment of my home country. What can I say? Investors expects to have free fair and transparent competition, freedom of expression, rule of law, independence of the judiciary, separation of powers, all these issues are needing for a investment environment. They do not come in their absence. In general I sensed their reluctance and indifference to our environment. I observed their cautious attitude and lost of investment appetite against Turkey.
In the long term, if we see that a very different perception of future investment expectations in our geography, do not be surprised.
Next year (2017) PowerGen Europe conference and exhibition will be held in Germany in Cologne 20-21-22 of June. I highly recommend you to join if you are working in the energy sector.
There are many international companies on the energy market, investors, financiers to cooperate. You can find the senior executives of international companies, you can talk to them, nowhere else so easy.
In years 2018-19-20, I have been told that PowerGen management is seriously considering to organize the same conference in Istanbul. In order to take that decision, they have to observe and be convinced that we have an attractive investment environment, free from regional wars, we must create the proper infrastructure of market mechanisms in Western standard requirements.

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, 30 June 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Appropriate Boiler Technology for Local Coal in Turkey

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 4x350 MWE 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.


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, 17 April 2016
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