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Cooling towers are a very important part of many chemical plants. They represent a relatively inexpensive and dependable means of removing low grade heat from cooling water.

Figure 1: Closed Loop Cooling Tower System The make-up water source is used to replenish water lost to evaporation. Hot water from heat exchangers is sent to the cooling tower. The water exits the cooling tower and is sent back to the exchangers or to other units for further cooling. Types of Cooling Towers Cooling towers fall into two main sub-divisions: natural draft and mechanical draft. Natural draft designs use very large concrete chimneys to introduce air through the media. Due to the tremendous size of these towers (500 ft high and 400 ft in diameter at the base) they are generally used for water flowrates above 200,000 gal/min. Usually these types of towers are only used by utility power stations in the United States. Mechanical draft cooling towers are much more widely used. These towers utilize large fans to force air through circulated water. The water falls downward over fill surfaces which help increase the contact time between the water and the air. This helps maximize heat transfer between the two. Types of Mechanical Draft Towers

Figure 2: Mechanical Draft Counterflow Tower

Figure 3: Mechanical Draft Crossflow Tower

Mechanical draft towers offer control of cooling rates in their fan diameter and speed of operation. These towers often contain several areas (each with their own fan) called cells. Cooling Tower Theory Heat is transferred from water drops to the surrounding air by the transfer of sensible and latent heat.

Figure 4: Water Drop with Interfacial Film

This movement of heat can be modeled with a relation known as the Merkel Equation:


where: KaV/L = tower characteristic K = mass transfer coefficient (lb water/h ft2) a = contact area/tower volume V = active cooling volume/plan area L = water rate (lb/h ft2) T1 = hot water temperature (0F or 0C) T2 = cold water temperature (0F or 0C) T = bulk water temperature (0F or 0C) hw = enthalpy of air-water vapor mixture at bulk water temperature (J/kg dry air or Btu/lb dry air) ha = enthalpy of air-water vapor mixture at wet bulb temperature (J/kg dry air or Btu/lb dry air) Thermodynamics also dictate that the heat removed from the water must be equal to the heat absorbed by the surrounding air: (2) (3) where: L/G = liquid to gas mass flow ratio (lb/lb or kg/kg) T1 = hot water temperature (0F or 0C) T2 = cold water temperature (0F or 0C) h2 = enthalpy of air-water vapor mixture at exhaust wet-bulb temperature (same units as above) h1 = enthalpy of air-water vapor mixture at inlet wet-bulb temperature (same units as above) The tower characteristic value can be calculated by solving Equation 1 with the Chebyshev numberical method: (4)

Figure 5: Graphical Representation of Tower Characteristic The following represents a key to Figure 5: C' = Entering air enthalpy at wet-bulb temperature, Twb BC = Initial enthalpy driving force CD = Air operating line with slope L/G DEF = Projecting the exiting air point onto the water operating line and then onto the temperature axis shows the outlet air web-bulb temperature As shown by Equation 1, by finding the area between ABCD in Figure 5, one can find the tower characteristic. An increase in heat load would have the following effects on the diagram in Figure 5: 1. Increase in the length of line CD, and a CD line shift to the right 2. Increases in hot and cold water temperatures 3. Increases in range and approach areas The increased heat load causes the hot water temperature to increase considerably faster than does the cold water temperature. Although the area ABCD should remain constant, it actually decreases about 2% for every 10 0F increase in hot water temperature above 100 0F. To account for this decrease, an "adjusted hot water temperature" is usd in cooling tower design.

Figure 6: Graph of Adjusted Hot Water Temperatures The area ABCD is expected to change with a change in L/G, this is very key in the design of cooling towers. Cooling Tower Design Although KaV/L can be calculated, designers typically use charts found in the Cooling Tower Institute Blue Book to estimate KaV/L for given design conditions. It is important to recall three key points in cooling tower design: 1. A change in wet bulb temperature (due to atmospheric conditions) will not change the tower characteristic (KaV/L) 2. A change in the cooling range will not change KaV/L 3. Only a change in the L/G ratio will change KaV/L

Figure 7: A Typical Set of Tower Characteristic Curves The straight line shown in Figure 7 is a plot of L/G vs KaV/L at a constant airflow. The slope of this line is dependent on the tower packing, but can often be assumed to be -0.60. Figure 7 represents a typical graph supplied by a manufacturer to the purchasing company. From this graph, the plant engineer can see that the proposed tower will be capable of cooling the water to a temperature that is 10 0F above the wet-bulb temperature. This is another key point in cooling tower design. Cooling towers are designed according to the highest geographic wet bulb temperatures. This temperature will dictate the minimum performance available by the tower. As the wet bulb temperature decreases, so will the available cooling water temperature. For example, in the cooling tower represented by Figure 7, if the wet bulb temperature dropped to 75 0F, the cooling water would still be exiting 10 0F above this temperature (85 0F) due to the tower design. Below is the summary of steps in the cooling tower design process in industry. More detail on these steps will be given later. 1. Plant engineer defines the cooling water flowrate, and the inlet and outlet water temperatures for the tower. 2. Manufacturer designs the tower to be able to meet this criteria on a "worst case scenario" (ie. during the hottest months). The tower characteristic curves and the estimate is given to the plant engineer. 3. Plant engineer reviews bids and makes a selection Design Considerations Once a tower characteristic has been established between the plant engineer and the manufacturer, the manufacturer must design a tower that matches this value. The required tower size will be a

function of: 1. Cooling range 2. Approach to wet bulb temperature 3. Mass flowrate of water 4. Web bulb temperature 5. Air velocity through tower or individual tower cell 6. Tower height In short, nomographs such as the one shown on page 12-15 of Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook 6th Ed. utilize the cold water temperature, wet bulb temperature, and hot water temperature to find the water concentration in gal/min ft2. The tower area can then be calculated by dividing the water circulated by the water concentration. General rules are usually used to determine tower height depending on the necessary time of contact: Approach to Wet Bulb (0F) 15-20 10-15 5-10 Cooling Range (0F) 25-35 25-35 25-35 Tower Height (ft) 15-20 25-30 35-40

Other design characteristics to consider are fan horsepower, pump horsepower, make-up water source, fogging abatement, and drift eliminators. Operation Considerations Water Make-up Water losses include evaporation, drift (water entrained in discharge vapor), and blowdown (water released to discard solids). Drift losses are estimated to be between 0.1 and 0.2% of water supply. Evaporation Loss = 0.00085 * water flowrate(T1-T2) (5) Blowdown Loss = Evaporation Loss/(cycles-1) (6) where cycles is the ratio of solids in the circulating water to the solids in the make-up water Total Losses = Drift Losses + Evaporation Losses + Blowdown Losses (7) Cold Weather Operation Even during cold weather months, the plant engineer should maintain the design water flowrate and heat load in each cell of the cooling tower. If less water is needed due to temperature changes (ie. the water is colder), one or more cells should be turned off to maintain the design flow in the other cells. The water in the base of the tower should be maintained between 60 and 70 0F by adjusting air volume if necessary. Usual practice is to run the fans at half speed or turn them off during colder months to maintain this temperature range. You can download a small DOS program that will calculate the tower characteristic or cold water temperature for a given tower based on a few inputs.

Cooling Tower Equations Cooling towers are part of nearly every chemical processing facility. Here are some crucial equations used to understand what is happening in your cooling tower. Here are the governing relationships for the makeup flow rate, the evaporation and windage losses, the draw-off rate, and the concentration cycles in an evaporative cooling tower system:

M = Make-up water in gal/min C = Circulating water in gal/min D = Draw-off water in gal/min E = Evaporated water in gal/min W = Windage loss of water in gal/min X = Concentration in ppmw (of any completely soluble salts usually chlorides) XM = Concentration of chlorides in make-up water (M), in ppmw XC = Concentration of chlorides in circulating water (C), in ppmw Cycles = Cycles of concentration = XC / XM ppmw = parts per million by weight A water balance around the entire system is: M=E+D+W Since the evaporated water (E) has no salts, a chloride balance around the system is: M (XM) = D (XC) + W (XC) = XC (D + W) and, therefore:

XC / Xm = Cycles = M / (D + W) = M / (M E) = 1 + {E / (D + W)} From a simplified heat balance around the cooling tower: (E) = (C) (T) (cp) / HV where: HV = latent heat of vaporization of water = ca. 1,000 Btu/pound T = temperature difference from tower top to tower bottom, in 0F cp = specific heat of water = 1 Btu/pound/F Windage losses (W), in the absence of manufacturer's data, may be assumed to be: W = 0.3 to 1.0 percent of C for a natural draft cooling tower W = 0.1 to 0.3 percent of C for an induced draft cooling tower W = about 0.01 percent of C if the cooling tower has windage drift eliminators Concentration cycles in petroleum refinery cooling towers usually range from 3 to 7. In some large power plants, the cooling tower concentration cycles may be much higher.

Experience is typically what turns a good engineer into a great engineer. An engineer that can look at a pipe and a flowmeter and guess the pressure drop within 5%. Someone who can at least estimate the size of a vessel without doing any calculations . Physical Properties
Property Units Water 4.2 1.0 1000 Organic Liquids 1.0-2.5 0.239-0.598 700-1500 Steam 2.0 0.479 Air 1.0 0.239 1.29@STP (1 bar, 0C) Organic Vapors 2.0-4.0 0.479-0.958

Heat Capacity KJ/kg 0C Btu/lb 0F Density kg/m3

lb/ft3 Latent Heat Thermal Cond. KJ/kg Btu/lb W/m 0C

62.29 1200-2100 516-903 0.55-0.70

43.6-94.4 200-1000 86-430 0.10-0.20 0.057-0.116 **See Below

0.08@STP (14.696 psia and 60F)

0.025-0.070 0.025-0.05 0.02-0.06 0.01440.040 0.01-0.03 0.014-0.029 0.116-0.35 0.02-0.05 0.01-0.03

Btu/h ft 0F 0.32-0.40 Viscosity cP 1.8 @ 0 0C 0.57 @ 50 0C 0.28 @ 100 0C 0.14 @ 200 0C Prandtl Number 1-15





** Viscosities of organic liquids vary widely with temperature Liquid density varies with temperature by:

Gas density can be calculated by:

Boiling Point of Water as a Function of Pressure:

Tbp (C) = (Pressure (MPa) x (1x109))0.25

Materials of Construction
Material Carbon Steel Advantage Disadvantage

Very poor resistance to acids and Low cost, easy to fabricate, abundant, most stronger alkaline streams. More brittle common material. Resists most alkaline than other materials, especially at low environments well. temperatures. Relatively low cost, still easy to fabricate. No resistance to chlorides, and Resist a wider variety of environments than resistance decreases significantly at carbon steel. Available is many different higher temperatures. types. Moderate cost, still easy to fabricate. Little resistance to chlorides, and Resistance is better over a wider range of resistance at higher temperatures concentrations and temperatures compared could be improved. to stainless steel. Very good resistance to chlorides (widely used in seawater applications). Strength allows it to be fabricated at smaller thicknesses. While the material is moderately expensive, fabrication is difficult. Much of cost will be in welding labor.

Stainless Steel

254 SMO (Avesta)


Superior resistance to chlorides, even at higher temperatures. Is often used on sea Pd stabilized Titanium water application where Titanium's resistance may not be acceptable. Very good resistance to high temperature caustic streams.

Very expensive material and fabrication is again difficult and expensive.


Moderate to high expense. Difficult to weld.

Hastelloy Alloy

Very wide range to choose from. Some Fairly expensive alloys. Their use must have been specifically developed for acid be justified. Most are easy to weld. services where other materials have failed. Brittle, very expensive, and very difficult to fabricate. Some stream components have been know to diffusion through some types of graphites. Extremely expensive, must be absolutely necessary.


One of the few materials capable of withstanding weak HCl streams.


Superior resistance to very harsh services where no other material is acceptable.

Cooling Towers
A. With industrial cooling towers, cooling to 90% of the ambient air saturation level is possible. B. Relative tower size is dependent on the water temperature approach to the wet bulb temperature: Twater-Twb Relative Size 5 2.4 15 1.0 25 0.55 C. Water circulation rates are generally 2-4 GPM/sq. ft (81-162 L/min m2) and air velocities are usually 5-7 ft/s (1.5-2.0 m/s) D. Countercurrent induced draft towers are the most common. These towers are capable of cooling to within 2 F (1.1 C) of the wet bulb temperature. A 5-10 F (2.8-5.5 C) approach is more common. E. Evaporation losses are about 1% by mass of the circulation rate for every 10 F (5.5 C) of cooling. Drift losses are around 0.25% of the circulation rate. A blowdown of about 3% of the circulation rate is needed to prevent salt and chemical treatment build-up.