By Ziemowit Iwanski

Poland is one of the world’s top consumers of coal for electric power generation. It’s also among the top ten consuming countries of the world’s total coal consumption and it is the second in Europe right after Germany.

Nowadays, as much as 85% of electric power in Poland is generated by combining hard and brown coal combustion in power plant’s steam boilers.

Dependency on coal in Poland is enhanced by its energy independence policy, aimed to build up energy security, while 98% of crude oil is imported and over 70% of natural gas is imported by gas pipelines from Russia.

During last 25 years, the Polish energy sector has transformed from state owned, centrally directed and planned into decentralized, commercially viable, self-sustained power business comparable to those in Western Europe.

It was achieved with a shift from centralized monopolies to unbundled structures, more decentralized power generation systems and economic models. Dividing integrated utilities into separate generation, transmission and distribution companies was one of the main reforms.

Other reforms include management contracting, commercialization of utilities, the growing role of an open electricity market, as well as the growing role of IPPs in different power generation sectors, but mainly in the development of renewable energy, electricity regulatory and legislative amendments. Accession to the EU concluded most of Polish legal and commercial transformations into an open model of power sector.

Energy mix of sustainable power generation technologies, combined with introduction and growing use of smart grid systems – electricity supply networks that use digital communication technology to analyze, detect and react to local power consumption changes – translate into better energy management and electricity pricing structure.

Keeping  in mind Polish fossil fuels breakdown, contributing over 94% of energy generation, the country is on its way to build a basis for sustainable energy mix, to meet CO2 emission reduction targets, dealing at the same time with reforming coal mining sector and modernizing coal based power generation, supporting growth of power generation with gas fired highly efficient gas turbine combined cycle operating in co-generation mode and introducing new capacities in renewable energy with special electricity tariffs. These are the main drivers to build diversity and a modern energy sector.

Energoprojekt Katowice S.A. (EPK) is the largest Polish privately owned design and engineering company with over 65 years of experience in building power generation capacity in Poland and abroad. EPK occupies a leading position in supporting transformation of Polish power units in order to meet new technical and environmental requirements as well as business improvement targets.

EPK supported investors in construction of new supercritical coal-fired power plants in Poland, such as the one with a capacity of 460 MW in Lagisza having the biggest fluidized bed boiler burning hard coal and the 860MW lignite-fired unit in Belchatow.

The Belchatow lignite-fired power plant with an installed capacity of over 5000 MW is the biggest plant in Poland and one of the biggest power plants in Europe, located against an open coal pit. Beside the construction of a new unit, a retrofitting of existing 360 MW units has been achieved and is going to be continued. NOx emission has been reduced by 50%, power unit electric capacity increased by 20 MW and net efficiency reached 41%. CO2 annual emission has been reduced to over 400 000 tons/year.

Currently, EPK supports engineering investments in new coal-fired units employing ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants technology with capacities of 1000 MW and above and with efficiencies close to 46%.

EPK has built up its expertise and capabilities in new technologies related to the gas turbine combine cycles. Polish applications are mostly GTCC operating in cogeneration mode, combining power generation with heat transfer to local consumers. There is a number of projects in Poland being in the final stage of execution and planning. The two biggest ones are constructed for ORLEN (Polish petrochemical company).

EPK assists the biggest Polish petrochemical company Orlen on two GTCC projects incorporating FB class GT technology in Wloclawek and H class GT technology in Plock. Both units are going to operate in cogeneration mode supplying electricity, process steam and heat to chemical and petrochemical sites, while the excess of capacity is going to be transferred to the grid and municipal heat distribution.

Energy mix diversification, in line with its sustainability, is a challenge to be undertaken and resolved in Poland in the coming years. Despite European recession, Poland managed to maintain stable annual growth rate of 3% in last couple of years. Hence, it requires installation of new capacities.  The situation is also altering the landscape of power consumers. The concept of distributed power and heat generation is more often brought up to EPK engineers by individual or industrial consumers. Consumer – to produce changes in the roles of stakeholders is a key trend.

They are looking to build high efficiency units, tailored to their needs, giving them control over electricity and energy costs. Quite often, these projects are combined with renewable energy resources and tend to employ most advanced technologies, like Oregen ORC – Organic- Rankine- Cycle, in order to achieve the highest efficiency supported by  enhanced long term economy.

Energoprojekt Katowice S.A. builds up its technical expertise and competencies related to new, advanced technologies working hand in hand with individual customers in the same way as with investors of large utilities in order to meet their needs in the best possible way.

Over 10 years of presence in Nigeria on GT projects supervision contracts resulted in setting up a joint venture company aiming to bring EPK’s know-how and experience to local markets in Africa.

This part of the world is foreseen to be one of the fastest developing regions, with a focus given to the Sub Saharan African (SSA) countries.

Despite a significant oil price drop in recent months signaling renewed headwinds in the global economy, the SSA economy is forecast to grow at a combined rate of 5% over the next few years. In order to support this level of growth, large investments into infrastructure and sustainable power supply need to be made and EPK targets to be part of it.

Ziemowit Iwanski is the Foreign Markets Executive for Energoprojekt Katowice S.A. in Poland