Dear Readers,

We should keep in mind that majority of our existing local thermal power plants do not use high calorie coal from underground mines. Open-pit lignite coal with low calorific value, is mostly fed into our existing thermal power plants to generate electricity. The design for power plants firing imported coal is completely different. Here imported coal comes to the nearby sea port.

Only in Çatalağzı- B thermal power plant, we fire by-product wastes of hard coal “water floating enrichment” process, which has approx. 3000 kcal/kg LHV(lower heating value). Here hard coal is water washed, enriched, and delivered to steel industry, and remaining poor quality by-product waste is delivered to the thermal power plant, since the byproduct waste cannot be utilized elsewhere.

You cannot burn imported coal in a thermal power plant which is designed to fire poor quality lignite, similarly you cannot fire lignite in a thermal power plant which is designed to fire imported coal. Designs are completely different.

Soma Eynez underground mine has high calorie lignite with 4000- 6000 kcal/kg LHV which is delivered to iron and steel industries in Aliağa and other nearby industrial zones. The good quality coal is also used in household heating in wintertime. We have some use of good quality coal in thermal power plants but consumption is very limited.

There is not a direct relationship between the high quality coal of Soma Eynez with the nearby Soma thermal power plant. Soma thermal power plant Unit-B uses poor quality 1500-2200 kcal/kg LHV lignite from open-pit lignite mine elsewhere in the region, mostly from Soma Deniş open-pit coal fields. These low calorie poor quality lignite cannot be utilized elsewhere other than the thermal power plant which is designed to fre these lignite coal.

Elbistan Kışlaköy and Çöllolar, Soma Denis, Yeniköy and Kemerköy are similar open-pit coal mines to feed the nearby thermal power plants. On the other hand, in Çayırhan coal town, there are newly opened quarries underground, which are fully mechanized in retrieve mining work. In our country there are a few new places where we remove high quality coal from underground mine fields, mostly mechanized and deliver the fuel to adjacent thermal power plants.

Newly commissioned Adularia Yunus Emre Thermal Power Plant, consumes underground coal mining nearby. In these mine fields, underground mine fields are fully mechanized, qualified technicians are employed at high level safety standards with cheaper mine mouth coal prices.

Since the nearby open-pit coal felds are about to be depleted in Tunçbilek Derin Sahalar (Deep Field), Yatağan Turgut, Yeniköy Karacahisar, these operations will go underground for new underground mechanized coal investments next on the agenda. Prior to their licensing and investment incentives, we should encourage them to go fully mechanized in their new investment spending.

However each coal field has a special characteristic so that mechanized underground operation may not be suitable at all times. For mechanized investment decisions, investors are to investigate proven reserves, geological structure, hydrogeological situation, as well as properties of rocks, coal thickness, depth, width, slope, etc. many parameters are to be evaluated.

In these new underground mine investments, we should encourage mechanized operations to the full extend if applicable, and we should try to avoid labor- intensive coal production. Labor-intensive fields as digging shovel production would be the best if we stay away for a while. We know that each coal field site has its own unique design and planning. In this regard, making a generalization is not healthy. Public authority should impose regulations in the expropriation permits and environmental criteria, for more safe working environment.

In Elbistan Çöllolar open-pit low calorie lignite mine fields, we faced with misfortunate land slides due to ignorance to safe working standards, which resulted casualties that are not clarifed the reasons yet.

Yeniköy and Kemerköy open pit coal excavations depleted the coal fields, and natural structure is changed, land filling is not completed, leveling, planting, for agriculture are not finished. Moreover Yatağan coal has high radioactivity which still has problems to solve in ash dam accumulation. Other thermal power plants and coal mines are mostly open pit. You remove the soil on top of mine field, then send the emerging coal to nearby power plant with conveyors, buckets etc.

Mechanized methods are more easily applied in open fields. Here outdoor operation problems are different. We do not have COx poisoning as in the case of deep underground labor intensive mining. But we have landslides, subsidence. Random and widespread coal fires are another danger. You need to take different safety measures in open-pit coal mines.

In low calorie coal firing thermal power plants, the frst ignition in the boiler combustion chamber is provided by fuel oil burners (no.6). The design is made to burn the low calorie lignite in bulk quantities. In these boilers you cannot fire natural gas in lieu of fuel oil (nr.6).

Currently we have reached to 65-GWe installed capacity. However this figure is misleading since it covers thermal power plants not in operation. For example, Afsin-A, with 4×340 MWe capacity, is in operation with one unit only, and that has only 70% availability. Other three units do not work.

Afsin-B plant has the same four-unit capacity, but here only two-units are running, the other two-units are defective, they do not work. Their repair contract was not completed for last 2-years. Tunçbilek 1-2-3 does not work. Soma-A does not work. Hopa plant with 2×25 MW capacity does not work.

Kemerköy- Yeniköy thermal power plants have 50% availabilities, they are working in half capacities. We show all these inoperative unit capacities in our total installed capacity. It is not correct. We are fooling ourselves. Our thermal power plants completed their normal lifetime . They have low efficiency and low availabilities. You cannot run them uninterrupted. Serious rehabilitation programs should be enforced. In fact, most precisely, we should better remove all these old thermal power plants, demolish them, sell them as scrap within a short time. It is much more efficient, more profitable, and more feasible to install new thermal power plants which are designed to new technology, with new environmental equipment, with bigger dust filters, with better fuel gas desulphurization, and bigger ash dams.

We know that it is difficult to find financing after privatization auction. Project finance is always difficult. Investors face with project financing problems prior to take full ownership of the energy investment.

Since the plants are sold with full ownership, there are other investment options to choose. At extreme case, in Kemerköy seaside plant, you can build a Ro-Ro sea port, a marina for summertime vacation resort. You can build a new thermal power plant to fire imported coal, or imported LNG, or investigate if you can build a nuclear power plant. Plant transmission line is available. High-voltage switchgear facility is ready. All you have to do is to apply for investment incentives and licensing in accordance with Energy Market Law No. 6446. These investment licenses and production licenses are mandatory.

Investor will need a period of 24-36 months for the receipt of the licenses necessary. Investor is to continue electricity generation in the old plant until obtaining license, so they need to ensure cash inflow.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. We send our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who passed in the Manisa Soma mine collapse. Our thoughts are with the people of Soma County.

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About the Author

Haluk Direskeneli

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.
He can be contacted at halukdireskeneli@gmail.com