Cooling Tower Condition Evaluation

09 May 2019

Originally published on LinkedIn by Mark Williams, Ph.D. P.E., S.E., Senior Principal & Managing Director of Walter P Moore’s Diagnostics Group in Houston.


Diagnostics Expert, Mark Williams, provides insight on the importance of routine evaluation for cooling towers and how to tackle assessment methods. 

Cooling tower shells are subjected to harsh environmental conditions, whether they be atmospheric or from cooling water chemistry. Recognition of the deterioration mechanisms for concrete cooling tower shells and the need for routine evaluation is vital for the continued operation of these critical infrastructure assets. I’ve captured some brief thoughts based on my experience on how to go about this.

So, how do we conduct a structural condition evaluation of reinforced concrete cooling tower shells? Pictured is a summary workflow that has worked well on previous cooling tower assessments with Walter P Moore. The chart is divided into Document Review, Field Work, and Laboratory Tests. There have been some recent innovations in field investigations, mostly notably drone flights and 3D laser scanning. Both are low cost/high value assessment methods when access is challenging or there are site safety implications.

It’s also important to recognize the key cooling tower structural components. It’s helpful to reference this terminology should be referenced when capturing and categorizing all of the data collected during an assessment. This is especially true for the big hyperbolic towers. Tablet technology works great for this.

Knowledge of the key structural components will also come in handy when building 3D analysis models of the tower—a subject for the next article.

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