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Cooling Tower Cleaning and Maintenance

Last Updated on by John Merrick

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 and Maintenance

How do you Maintain a Cooling Tower?

Cooling towers are maintained with regular cleaning and repairs. The process of cooling tower cleaning and maintenance and any subsequent cooling tower repair requires intricate planning as portions of the power plant will have to be periodically shut down to safely and effectively complete the process. If you are looking for a firm with a long track record of success in every type of cooling tower design, consider working with a highly skilled and experienced firm like the Merrick Group. We provide power plants with an upfront assessment of the process as well as time frames from start through to completion.

The Cooling Tower Cleaning Process:

Step 1: Safety Inspection & Repair

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 cooling tower repair process.

Step 2: Dewatering & Hydro-Excavation

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.

Step 3: Algae Removal

Dewatering and hydro-excavation work in tandem with the removal of algae and debris from the cooling tower support columns with high-pressure water systems designed specifically for this purpose.

Step 4: Operational Inspection

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.

Step 5: Fill Inspection

Depending on the detailed plan developed for cooling tower cleaning and maintenance, the process shifts to continued 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.

Step 6: Degradation Inspection

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.

Step 7: Repairs & Maintenance

This portion of the cooling tower repair process focuses first on identifying the damages and then determining the root-cause of failed concrete or 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. Once the process has been thoroughly mapped out and characterized by 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.

Step 8: Coating Inspection

At every stage of the cooling tower cleaning and maintenance process, certified personnel can ensure that all coatings meet industry standards utilizing a variety of tools and techniques.

Step 9: Maintenance Schedule

Once all the above steps are completed, the firm and the power plant will have developed an ongoing long-term cooling tower repair program and maintenance schedule that can ensure that the cooling tower is always operating at peak efficiency for maximized power generation.

What is the Reason to Service a Cooling Tower?

During regular use, cooling towers build up a large number of bacteria, debris, and sludge. The bacterial build-up often includes Legionella, a pathogenic microorganism that causes illnesses including a pneumonia-type illness, and mild flu-like illness. In addition to decontaminating, regular cooling tower cleaning and maintenance can extend the life, efficiency, reliability, and safety of cooling towers.

How often Should Cooling Towers be Cleaned?

It is recommended by OSHA that cooling tower cleaning and maintenance occur at least twice a year. The Merrick Group normally performs cooling tower cleaning and maintenance during the spring and fall seasons when there is less demand for power and little impact of completely or partially shut down a cooling tower. If, during the regularly scheduled cleaning and maintenance, excessive bacterial growth or sludge build-up is observed, more frequent cooling tower cleaning and maintenance may be required. Additionally, any new cooling towers or out of service cooling towers should be inspected and cleaned before startup to reduce the risk of harmful bacterial growth.

Work with a Cooling Tower Repair Expert

Most power plants will contract with a highly experienced cooling tower 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. 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 repair schedule. The Merrick Group, Inc. has over 25 years of experience in cooling tower cleaning and maintenance. Contact Merrick today to get on the schedule for the next outage season.

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