New 188 km highway is key to rebuilding the Balkans

16 April 2002 – To say that Turkey is experiencing a power shortage might sound like a contradiction in terms. The history of this big brawny crossroads of a country, where East meets West along the Strait of Bosporus, reads like a primer on power: land of ancient Troy, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.

In recent years, however, Turkey has faced a serious power shortage. The reasons-a surging demand for electricity spurred by rapid economic growth, and a lack of new power plants to satisfy the need. Compounding the problem, a severe drought has crippled the country’s hydroelectric power supply, resulting in an unstable power grid.

A turning point for the better came in 1997, when InterGen, the joint venture of Bechtel and Shell, and Enka, one of Turkey’s largest construction firms, won a bid to build, own, and operate three combined cycle, natural gas-fired power plants in western Turkey. With a total value of more than $2 bn, it is the largest private-sector investment in the country.

The huge undertaking got off to a rocky start, literally, when in August 1999, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale hit near the town of Adapazari east of Istanbul-one of the proposed sites for the power project. In the wake of the disaster, which killed some 30 000 people, the Bechtel-Enka joint venture (BEIV) coordinated disaster relief efforts while finalizing power plant designs.

Three Power Plants Treated as One Huge Project

The project called for constructing two adjacent plants at Adapazari-a 1540 MW facility to serve the Gebze region and a 770 MW plant for the Adapazari region-along with a 1540 MW plant near the Aegean port of Izmir.

Building nearly 3900 MW of power on a super-fast track schedule is a formidable challenge. The Bechtel-Enka solution: Treat the three plants as one huge project, and use the same basic engineering design for all of them. For example, the power blocks at all three plants are configured identically (Gebze and Izmir have two blocks each, Adapazari has one). Each block comprises two combustion turbine generators, two heat recovery steam generators, and one steam turbine generator.

The only significant difference among the plant designs involves the cooling systems, with Gebze and Adapazari using a closed-loop system, while Izmir uses seawater coolant. “By replicating the design for all three plants and all five power blocks, we’ve been able to achieve huge economies of scale,” says Russ Barretta, BEIV project coordinator.

The cookie-cutter approach also helped avoid construction delays. If one plant experienced an equipment shortage, the necessary parts often could be obtained from one of the other plants. That was the case when two shipwrecks scuttled timely deliveries of crucial structural steel and boiler equipment. Thanks to the nearly identical design of the plants, the Gebze plant was able to use boiler modules from Adapazari. Izmir modules, already in fabrication, were reassigned to Adapazari, and four modules damaged beyond repair in one of the shipwrecks were re-fabricated and sent to the Izmir plant, taking advantage of its later schedule.

Combined Cycle Technology Proved to Be the Ideal Choice

Combined cycle technology was an ideal choice for the big project. In wide demand throughout the world, combined cycle plants boast short construction times, low investment costs, high operating efficiencies, and low exhaust emissions. A combined cycle plant can reach fuel-to-electricity conversion efficiencies at 60 percent operating capacity, with minimal environmental impact, since it’s driven by clean-burning natural gas.

“The standard combined cycle power plant design has been so successful,” says InterGen General Manager Christopher Wilkinson, “that instead of starting from scratch every time we build a new power plant, we’ve taken the standard design concept and have begun to roll it out worldwide.”

Credit for keeping the project ahead of schedule also goes to the smooth working relationship between InterGen-Enka and Bechtel-Enka. “In 36 years in the business, this is as good a relationship as I’ve seen between owner and contractor,” says Project Director George Alsop, who has worked on Bechtel-Enka projects in Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Croatia.

“A joint venture is always a risky situation, but what we have here is a meeting of equals. Both companies respect each other’s expertise, and that’s made for a level of communication and trust that has created an absolutely model way to work.” The mutual respect operates at the engineering-construction level as well, says Alsop, who has only the highest praise for Enka’s experienced, productive craftsmen and its construction management capabilities.

Everybody on the Team Has a Do-the-Right-Thing Attitude

“The way we share resources, at times you wouldn’t know who’s the owner and who’s the contractor,” explains Barretta. “Everybody on the team has a do-the-right-thing attitude.” Case in point: When a local utility installed transmission lines, work was proceeding too slowly to suit the schedule. So Bechtel and Enka agreed to do the work themselves and split the cost with the owner. The result was beneficial for startup, safety, and operability of the plant.

“We’ve been schedule fanatics from the get-go” says Alsop. “We believe that many things become possible by pushing an accelerated schedule. We find problems sooner and allow time to fix them. We reduce costs. And we help Turkey-in its third year of drought-avoid rolling blackouts.”

The fast track-schedule is delivering. By last November, the Gebze and Adapazari plants were 95 percent complete. In December, the plants began partial operation, five months ahead of schedule. When Izmir goes online later this year, the three new plants together will increase the country’s capacity to generate electricity by some 27 percent. Once again, Turkey will be synonymous with power.

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