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Cooling Tower Maintenance - New Strategic Partnerships


Southern Water Services of Texas utilizing a Deep Trekker Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) or underwater drone to conduct cooling tower maintenance.


What is an Industrial Cooling Tower?

Cooling towers play a vital role in the removal of waste hot water generated by industrial equipment and processes. This special type of heat exchanger allows water and air to come in contact with each other, to lower the temperature of the water that is being circulated throughout the cooling tower.

Despite the numerous types of cooling towers used across a plethora of industries, the cooling tower working principles remain much the same. Evaporative cooling is the standard operating method of an industrial cooling tower. Hot water, gathered from numerous different processes around the plant, travels via pipe up to the top of the cooling tower where the water distribution systems are. As water enters into the cooling tower, it crosses over a group of spraying nozzles before being distributed onto the wet deck. In tandem, air is being drawn through air-inlet slats, forcing the water to evaporate. The evaporation process allows for the heat to be removed from the water, with the cooled water falling and the hot air rising naturally out of the tower. The cooled water is then pumped back out into the plant to be reused again.

water cooling tower illustration-01

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Environmental Benefits of Utilizing Cooling Towers

To put this into perspective, petroleum refineries, for example, have very large cooling tower systems. Typically, a large refinery requires approximately 80,000 cubic meters of water per hour throughout the entire cooling process. If that same plant had no cooling tower and used once-through cooling water system, it would require about 100,000 cubic meters an hour. Through the use of multiple cooling towers, these power plants are able to recycle the water they already used; in turn saving them from pumping even more water than needed.

Additionally, without the cooling towers, large amounts of extremely hot water would return to the oceans, lakes, and rivers which may raise the temperature to the surrounding ecosystem. A cooling tower serves to dissipate the heat into the atmosphere, where it cannot be re-utilized, unless it falls in the form of rain, making it the far more ecologically friendly system. In order to maintain plant efficiency, both in terms of the systems operation and environmental regulations, these tanks must be monitored and cleaned regularly.

Cooling Tower Maintenance

As outside air is being utilized in the cooling water intakes, bacteria, bugs, dust and other environmental elements are constantly being introduced into the cooling tanks. These elements cause a biofilm on the tank floor and walls, which must be removed to prevent scaling and fouling. The water must also be constantly filtered to remove particles, and dosed with biocides and algaecides to prevent growth in the tower which might obstruct or slow the continuous flow of water. Micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae can grow very rapidly in cooling water; which can greatly reduce the heat transfer efficiency.

Another very important reason for the monitoring of cooling towers is to prevent the growth of legionella, a bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease. A common cause of Legionnaires is the inhalation of aerosols which are a by-product of cooling towers used in open recirculating evaporative systems. Monitoring and preventing this kind of bacteria is part of the strict regulations enforced on industrial complexes to ensure the health of its workers and surrounding communities.

Strategic Partnerships

Shutting down an entire industrial complex for cooling tower maintenance is next to impossible. Just an hour of downtime can cost millions of dollars in lost production. Being able to observe cooling tower conditions and schedule maintenance efficiently and cost-effectively is imperative. Southern Water Services of Texas, SWS, is a small company doing just that.

Created in 1992, the SWS team was formed to provide “knowledgeable service and advanced technology” to the water treatment market. Having worked and studied the field of water treatment for more than 40 years, SWS, recognized the growing need for a technology that could be introduced into cooling tower maintenance. Allowing for observation and monitoring, non-invasive cleaning and defouling, and the ability to deploy and act quickly.

After much research, Shelby Howell, VP of Operations at Southern Water Services of Texas, and his small team at SWS chose the DTG2, a Deep Trekker Remotely Operated Vehicle(ROV), to assist them in filling this gap and are now blazing a trail in water treatment community.

rov water cooling tower maintenance inspection

About the Underwater Drone

The DTG2 underwater drone has a patented pitch technology which allows the team to easily maneuver it through the cooling tower in any direction. From the lightweight handheld controller, the ROV operator is able to capture videos and stills in real-time from the unit's HD camera. This captured data allows the team to accurately gauge potential downtime and cost to repair; completely taking the guess work out of the equation.

“The cooling tower is the heart of any industrial system - the ability to do strategic and regular segment shut downs - means the heart remains healthy and the system in operation,” advised Shelby.

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