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Industrial Cooling Towers - A History

Industrial Cooling Towers evolved as the world became increasingly industrialised during the 1800s. The onset of the industrial revolution saw the emergence of the steam engine and a growth in manufacturing and transportation. Without a way of removing heat these processes would overheat, unless natural cooling sources were close at hand.

The early 20th century saw the arrival of electric power which meant cooling loads were significantly increased. Using water Cooling Towers however became very costly and restrictive for growing industries, unless they had easy access to a large water source.

1902 cooling tower

To overcome this, evaporative methods were employed which recycled cooling water. These were ideal if there wasn't a water supply in the vicinity or if the supply of the municipal water system wasn't sufficient to cope with the demand. If an area had sufficient land available then these were effectively cooling ponds. But, for instance in more built up areas where space was limited, they took the form of Cooling Towers. These were often wooden structures.

The first Industrial Cooling Towers were either free standing or on top of buildings. They relied on a natural air flow source or air was created using fans. In 1918 Dutch engineers patented a hyperboloid cooling. Hyperboloid towers didn't reach the UK until 1924 with the first ones being installed at a power station in Liverpool. The towers were used here to cool the water used at Lister Drive which was a coal fired electrical power plant.

*This image from 1902 depicts an early example of an Evaporative Tower.

In the 1900s the development of the Cooling Tower industry was really led by the requirements of the power and process users. But, with the growth of the HVAC market, these needs changed and towers evolved that were much more in-line with what we’re used to today.

For commercial air conditioning the emphasis moved to producing more compact designs to fit within the space restrictions that were often characterised by commercial buildings. After the Second World War the US market in particular saw a real growth in need for air conditioned premises which meant cooling tower demand increased. These HVAC type installations tended to be in urban, populated areas so things like noise became of concern. Construction materials changed too – wood was too much of a fire risk in these built up areas. These towers needed to be very different to their predecessors that had been used in very industrial applications.

By the end of the 1950s Industrial Cooling Towers were becoming factory assembled, constructed of galvanised steel (for protection from corrosion) and centrifugal fans reduced noise levels. Space requirements became even less of an issue in the 1960s as design innovation saw the cold water basin and fan sections combined into one piece. Towers were smaller and lighter than ever before and component parts were more accessible. Whilst the principles remained the same, the towers of this era were vastly different to those of the 1800s.

Modern Cooling Towers

Industrial Cooling Towers differ in size and specific design depending on the application for which they are intended. Each variation has its own advantages and limitations, so matching the right tower design with the right application is vital.

The Crossflow Cooling Tower

A crossflow tower features a vertical waterflow meeting a horizontal airflow across the fill. This design features the use of open, gravity-flow hot water distribution basins placed at the top of the unit, and avoids the need for air to pass through the distribution system.

The Counterflow Cooling Tower

In a counterflow tower air flows vertically upwards, counter to the flow of water falling across the fill. In a counterflow design, pressurised pipe-type spray systems are spray water onto the top of the fill; pipes and nozzles are placed far enough apart to allow air to pass through the spray system.

marley fluid cooling tower

Induced Draft vs. Forced Draft

Induced draft cooling towers use fans placed at the top of the unit to pull air through the fill, whereas forced draft towers use blowers situated at the bottom of the air inlets to push air through the fill.

Factory-assembled vs. Field-erected

Small to medium cooling towers are often built and assembled at the factory then transported to the required site in as whole a state as their size will allow — this construction method is referred to as a “packaged” or “factory assembled product” (FAP). As example, small towers may be shipped intact while medium towers may be shipped in two or three sections.

Larger and multi-cell cooling towers are prefabricated, manufactured in sections or modules at the factory, piece marked and then shipped ready for final assembly at the destination site in a construction method known as “field-erected product” (FEP). For continuity of construction, the manufacturer often provides labour and supervision for the cooling tower’s final assembly in the “field”.

If you have a requirement for an Industrial Cooling Tower, or have any questions regarding Cooling Towers then please get in touch with Aqua's experienced engineers today!

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