Power plants that rely on direct and indirect hyperbolic stack natural draft cooling towers must ensure that they are always operating at peak efficiency. Consequently, regular cooling tower cleaning and maintenance performed by expert personnel is imperative in order to achieve that goal. Cooling tower cleaning is one of the most important procedures you can perform to boost system performance.
The process of cooling tower maintenance and any subsequent repairs requires intricate planning as portions of the power plant will have to be periodically shut down to safely and effectively complete the process. By working with highly skilled and experience firms that have a long track record of working with every type of cooling tower design, power plants can get a firm, upfront assessment of the process as well as time frames for start through to completion.
Utilizing a proven and experienced firm ensures that all environmental and safety regulations will have strict adherence. This will be true throughout the entire process from the smallest detail to the biggest project of the cooling tower maintenance and repair schedule.
The cooling tower cleaning process begins with guardrail and ladder inspections to ensure that the power plant staff and cleaning personnel are operating in a safe manner and environment. Any repairs are done immediately before proceeding further with the maintenance and repair process.
Once completed, the process of dewatering of the basin utilizing both internal systems as well as specialized portable systems brought on site is undertaken by the expert cleaning company. Specialized high pressure water as well as industrial vacuum systems are utilized to remove and gather the resultant silt and sludge that gathers at the bottom of the basin. The process is virtually the same in a partitioned cooling tower basin with the exception that the partitions do not require total shut down.
This process works in tandem with removal of algae and debris from the cooling tower support columns with high pressure water systems designed specifically for this purpose. Once cleaned, the basin and tower support columns are inspected for any anomalies or deterioration with any subsequent repairs performed. All cooling tower fans and blades are inspected for optimum integrity, tolerances, and operation with any repairs or replacements performed as needed.
Depending on the detailed plan developed for cooling tower cleaning and maintenance, the process shifts to inspection and maintenance of the cooling tower fill. At this point the highly trained personnel will inspect, and if necessary repair or replace any defective or deteriorating fill sheets as well as nozzles that feed water across the fill. At every stage of the cooling tower maintenance and repair process, certified personnel can ensure that all coatings meet industry standards utilizing a variety of tools and techniques.
Just as with any metal, wood or PVC portions of the cooling tower, the cement shell as well as all other concrete elements of the cooling tower can see a variety of degradations and cracks over time due to a variety of process functions. Utilizing the specifications of the cooling tower’s original design plans and specifications, personnel will inspect for leaks, cracks, joint failure leakage, anchor bolt corrosion, and other defects that can impair the tower itself. Similar processes are undertaken for the foundation support columns, superstructure, embedded reinforcing steel bars and other elements of the tower where concrete and steel are utilized.
This portion of the cooling tower maintenance and repair process focuses first on identifying the damages and then determining the root-cause of failed concrete/structural elements. An industry-standard engineered solution is tailor designed for each type of repair whether it is partial or full-depth structural member section repairs, foundation stabilization, containment liner, crack repair or simply stopping cooling water egress.
Most power plants will contract with a highly experienced cooling tower maintenance and repair firm that has a detailed and exhaustive program for locating, qualifying and quantifying any deterioration points of the tower. This is always accompanied by a verifiable Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) program for the repair.
Once the process has been thoroughly mapped out and characterized with a detailed repair approach for each individual need, the process can begin under strict timetables for completion. This approach is designed to address thermodynamic, chemical and construction material properties of the structure operating within the cooling tower process service environment. Once completed, the firm and the power plant will have developed an ongoing long-term repair program and maintenance schedule that can ensure that the cooling tower is always operating at peak efficiency for maximized power generation.
John Merrick is the owner and president of The Merrick Group, Inc. He has over 25 years of experience with coordinating national and international sales efforts for nuclear and fossil fuel related maintenance projects. He has successfully completed projects in over 30 nuclear and fossil fuel sites.