Turkey, though rich in minerals, does not have significant energy resources, and coal (mostly lignite) is the most important available fossil fuel in the country. Operating coal-fired power plants use mostly national resources of low-calorie lignite and some hard coal. Coal is used, besides for energy, for steel and cement production.
In 2013, Turkey generated about 44% of its electricity from gas, 25% from coal, 24% from hydro power plants and 2% from renewable sources. Turkey is heavily dependent on imported gas, mostly from Russia. The government estimates that electricity demand will increase in the next few years. For this reason, the strategic importance of coal in this country has increased.
Lignite is one of the most important domestic energy sources in Turkey – its resources are estimated at 13, 442 million tons. Almost 90% of lignite comes from opencast mines. The largest deposits are located in the Afsin-Elbistan basin in south-eastern Anatolia, near the town of Maras, where geological reserves are estimated at approximately 4 ,381 million tons. The Soma Basin is the second largest area of lignite in Turkey. Other important deposits are located in Tuncbilek, Seyitomer, Bursa, Can, Mugla, Beypazarı, Sivas and the Konya Karapinar Basin.
Although the Turkish coal sector contributes much less to the production of electricity than the gas sector, it is very likely that it will be the fastest growing sector of the Turkish energy industry over the next decade. The Turkish Minister of Energy declared the year 2012 “the year of coal”, and plans to use all coal resources by 2023 and almost double its production.
The Turkish government, with the support of international public institutions, is currently implementing a policy to support hard coal and lignite mining projects, and Turkish banks are giving priority to financing these projects. These grants are crucial for the development of new projects conducted on a large scale. Because of the coal exploration program, funded by the government, the production of coal (especially lignite) has increased by over 50% since 2005. The Turkish government is implementing its policy, despite the fact that it is incompatible with the global aim to reduce CO2 emissions. If all planned coal-fired power plants in Turkey are completed, greenhouse gas emissions in this country will increase by 75%.
Opencast lignite mines and power plants
The Turkish coal sector is mainly lignite (70 million tons in 2012) but also hard coal (2.3 million tons in 2012). Lignite is mined in 30 opencast mines and 9 underground mines. The owners of these mines are state-owned companies from the coal mining and energy sectors.
Currently, only a small power station (300 MW) is supplied by domestic hard coal, extracted from the Zonguldak basin, while larger power plants such as the İskenderun power plant (1,200 MW) and the Zonguldak Eren Enerji Çatalağzı power plant (1,360 MW) use imported hard coal. Other power plants are lignite-fired power plants. It is estimated that lignite production will increase up until 2020, thus enabling the achievement and maintenance of lignite’s high share (approx. 30%) in the Turkish energy market.
The owner of the two largest lignite regions in Turkey – Afsin-Elbistan and Sivas-Kangal – is the EUA (Electricity Generation Company), whereas exploitation is carried out by private companies. In the nearest future, the EUA wants to privatize six new lignite mines with a total capacity of 2.6 GW.
One of the largest opencast lignite mines in Turkey is the Karapinar mine, located in the province of Konya. This mine has a lignite deposit of 1.8 billion tons and its annual production capacity is 10 million tons. There is also a plan to build a new lignite power plant in the Konya Karapinar Basin, with a capacity of 5,000 MW. In September 2013, the consortium made up of the Hungarian company (Hornonitrianske Bane Prievidza – HBP), the Slovenian company (Istroenergo Group), and the Thai company (Singa Energy Solutions) signed a preliminary agreement for this project.