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Applied Thermal Engineering 38 (2012) 160e167

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Applied Thermal Engineering
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A simplified method on thermal performance capacity evaluation of counter flow
cooling tower
Wanchai Asvapoositkul*, Supawat Treeutok
Department of Mechanical Engineering, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Bang Mod, Thung Khru, Bangkok 10140, Thailand

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The thermal performance capacity of a wet cooling tower is dominated by weather conditions, partic-
Received 11 October 2010 ularly ambient wet-bulb temperature. In this paper, the tower performance was predicted by a simplified
Accepted 11 January 2012 model which was characterized by specification of a mass evaporation rate equation. The purpose of this
Available online 21 January 2012
study was to present a calculation that was accurate and simple to implement, and could be applied to
evaluate acceptance tests for new towers, to monitor changes in tower performance as an aid in planning
maintenance, and to predict tower performance under changed operating conditions. The results were
Cooling tower thermal performance
validated and showed good agreement with experimental measurements. The results were also pre-
Cooling tower analysis
sented in simple formats that were easy to use and understand. These allowed reduction of test data and
Merkel theory comparison of test results to design data. The method held a practical advantage for predicted tower
Predicting cooling tower performance thermal performance capability to which it was best suited when both flow rate and temperature of inlet
Performance curve water were near design conditions since it required neither the measurement of air flow rate nor the
calculation of tower characteristic ðhmass A=LÞ. The expected results of this study will make it possible to
incorporate cooling tower design and simulation to evaluate and optimize the thermal performance of
power plants for example.
Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction correctly with the design conditions that were instructed according
to the CTI cooling tower acceptance test code [1]. Incidentally, these
Cooling towers have many applications in the fields of air- data are not only useful in the determination of thermal capacity of
conditioning, refrigeration and power plants. In the case of power the tower according to design conditions during the test run period
generation plants or sugar mill plants, the cooling tower require- but can also be used to determine the operating characteristics in
ments are relatively large and it has been the practice in recent the change in atmospheric conditions, especially temperatures.
years especially in Thailand to fabricate increasingly larger cooling Notable examples of techniques based on this approach are the
towers. For large towers or towers with special requirements that work of Fujita and Tezuka [3], Peterson and Backer [4] and Lucas
are not Cooling Technology Institute (CTI) certified, in-situ testing is et al. [5]. They demonstrated that the cooling tower characteristic
the only way to guarantee that the towers will perform as required. curve predicted from the Merkel principle is simple in terms of
For this purpose, it is quite common to use the Merkel theory such formulation and can provide reliable estimate of cooling tower
as that of CTI [1] or ASME [2] for the computation of tower char- performance at off-design. By this method, the tower operating
acteristic (hmass A=L) or Number of Transfer Units (NTU). The prob- conditions are determined directly using the slope of the cooling
lems usually encountered in analysis of cooling towers for large tower characteristic curve.
process plants included measurement of many test data with high Even though the method has been applied to predict the overall
accuracy instruments, analysis of test data and comparison of test thermal evaluation of cooling towers, there are some concerns
results to design point. This is an expensive and time-consuming about simplifying assumptions of the Merkel theory such as the
process that should be undertaken only after due consideration. neglecting of the reduction of waterflow rate by evaporation and
The thermal capacity of a cooling tower is obtained by per- the saturated water vapor (or 100% relative humidity) of air at the
forming the test. The test data should be evaluated by comparing tower exit. The method tends to underestimate the heat rejected by
the cooling tower but can be used if only the water outlet
temperature is of importance [6]. Kloppers and KrÖger also
* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ662 470 9338; fax: þ662 470 9111. proposed a technique to get accurate prediction by including the
E-mail address: (W. Asvapoositkul). water loss due to evaporation in the energy equation. The effect of

1359-4311/$ e see front matter Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

kJ/kg Subscripts hconv convective heat transfer coefficient. 1. expressed by substituting (4) and (5) into (3) and through rear- mance of the cooling tower without measurement of air flow rate and rangement we get. a constant L/G ratio results in a 4. All horizontal sections through the tower are assumed to be the same.  C evaporation causes the water flow rate to decrease from inlet to equivalent of a mass transfer resulting from the evaporation of outlet. the calculation of hmass A=L.  C w specific volume.o  Twb). Asvapoositkul. 2. A mass balance and an energy balance for a steady water-spray flow with total exposed surface-area (air/water interface area) element dA. kJ/kgK r density.  C A exposed surface-area (air/water interface area). the ratio of water-to-air (L/G) varies through the a portion of the circulating water. and by latent heat Fig.w specific heat of water at constant pressure.i  Tw. in which both streams move in an opposite and vertical direction (water moves downward while air moves upward). These two effects (evaporation loss and variable L/G) were side in terms of heat and mass transfer coefficients. kJ/kg gw saturated vapor of water hmass convective mass transfer coefficient. kgw/kgda G dry air mass flow rate.o). Mass balance for dry air dG ¼ 0 (1) Mass balance for water dL ¼ G dua (2) Energy balance Gdha ¼ Ldhf w þ hfw dL ¼ Ldhfw þ hfw Gdua (3) Heat is removed from the water by a transfer of sensible heat due to a difference in temperature levels. or specific total air enthalpy.34% increase in NTU at the The mass balance on the air side of the evaporated water mass is degree range. hconv and hmass investigated by Baker and Shryock [7]. S. Treeutok / Applied Thermal Engineering 38 (2012) 160e167 161 Nomenclature Twb wet-bulb temperature. The study was also to determine if The simultaneous heat and mass transfer takes place and can be the performance curves could be used to evaluate thermal perfor. watt t test value r2 correlation coefficient v vapor R range (Tw.a specific heat of dry air at constant pressure. is flow cooling tower with evaporation loss. kg/s h specific enthalpy. 1 where water mass flow rate L and dry air mass flow rate G flow uniformly of plane area.4% increase in NTU at a 22  C range. W/m2K a air hfw enthalpy of saturated liquid water evaluated at d design value Tw. kJ/kg da dry air hgw enthalpy of saturated water vapor evaluated at fw saturated liquid of water Tw. kgair/m2s i inlet hmass A=L or NTU tower characteristics o outlet L water mass flow rate. And evaporation Ldhfw ¼ hconv ðTsw  Ta ÞdA þ hmass ðusw  ua Þhgw dA (4) loss and varied L/G ratios result in a 1. m2 Greek symbols Appr approach (Tw. W. m3/kg cp. as a result. And tower capacity was more accurately Gdha ¼ hconv ðTsw  Ta ÞdA þ hmass ðusw  ua Þhgw dA (6) expressed in terms of the ratio of water-to-air loading (L/G) that included water evaporation and unsaturated air leaving the tower. The purpose of this study was to apply the cooling tower perfor. kg/s sw saturated water P fan power. For calculation of counter respectively. The energy balance on the water tower.  C w water RH relative humidity z z coordinates T temperature. kg/m3 cp. . Control volume for cooling tower. Theoretical analysis (basic equation) The analysis considers an increment of a cooling process as in control volume dz of Fig. kJ/kgK u humidity ratio. as in flow path dZ (assuming negligible kinetic and potential energies and work). Gdua ¼ hmass ðusw  ua ÞdA (5) mance characteristics to determine the operating characteristics for the cooling tower being considered.

An empirical equation useful Zh2 ZT2 hmass A dhfw cdTfw for predicting hmassA/L at off-design conditions is [8]: ¼ ¼ (11) L ðhsw  ha Þ ðhsw  ha Þ  n h1 T1 hmass A L ¼ c (12) L G This is known as the Merkel equation. . Referring to Fig. Tower demand and characteristic curve.a   ðusw  ua Þhgw ð7Þ If the Lewis factor is equal to 1. Asvapoositkul. 4. Tower characteristics and n are known for a particular cooling tower. The tower characteristic hmass A=L design condition.i.1. For the given cooling tower. The hmassA/L value of a tower The water temperature and air temperature or enthalpy are operating at off-design conditions will not be the same as the being changed along the tower and the Merkel relation can only be applied to a small element of the heat transfer surface. 2. Integration for equation (11) is done by using Tchebyshev’s method which gives a high Values of c and n are determined from performance data degree of accuracy in the case of large cooling ranges as suggested provided by manufacturers. S. If a typical value of n is assumed. the ambient air wet-bulb temperature which can be determined by integrated value of equation (11) at Twb.162 W. the value of c can be determined from L and G at nominal design conditions. 3.a or ratio of overall heat transfer to overall mass transfer). concept of cooling tower performance [1.6 [9]. we get Ldhfw ¼ hmass dA½ðhsw  ha Þ (9) hmass dA d hfw ¼ (10) L ðhsw  ha Þ Fig. Cooling tower characteristic curve with design point and test point. Once c 2. Fig. 0. and this gives requirements or is a measure of the difficulty of the task [8]. Cooling tower demand curve. In a measure of the ability of the tower to effect the transfer such as cooling tower design practice. can be determined from the known waterflow and known air flow. (L/G). 2. its value depends on the ratio of water-to-air loading (L/G). we get Gdha ¼ hmass dA½ðhsw  ha Þ (8) And if the reduction of water flow rate by evaporation is neglected in the energy balance. 2. Integrating hmassA/L value at design conditions. and the flow rates L and G. and ther- modynamic properties of airewater. Treeutok / Applied Thermal Engineering 38 (2012) 160e167 By applying and replacing the Lewis factor (hconv =hmass cp.4 < n < 0. This value is based on the equipment’s design can then be plotted against varying (L/G) ratio.2. Cooling demand curves And the dimensionless variable. Typical values of n are in the range of by CTI [1].2]. the simplified equation (6) is    hconv  Gdha ¼hmass dA ðhsw ha Þþ 1 ðhsw ha Þ hmass cp. the cooling tower performance can be predicted at any operating condition given the The tower characteristics (hmassA/L) are a dimensionless variable water inlet temperature Tw. it is referred to as an accepted shown in Fig.

equation (15) may be written as   L ha.   L ha. W.i ha. 4.o  ha. S.i  hw. Fig.o  ua.o  ha.3. (Tdb. . 2) over the demand curve (Fig. the equations are solved iteratively with the updated values of Appr until the specified hmassA/L from equation (12) is Tw.o) 33. sequence of the calculation is shown by the flow diagram in Fig. 4 would be important information to have for plant thermal opti.0013 bar Liquid to gas ratio (L/G)d 1.163 Fig.o Once the value of L/G is known.i ¼ Tw.i ¼  ¼  (16) G hw. Flow diagram for the cooling tower simulation calculation.i  Tw. air discharge dry bulb and wet-bulb temperatures.i  hw.o ua. Design condition Water loading 60 L/min-m2  Hot water temp. The The calculating of hmassA/L is computed using either equation (11) or (12) which is obtained once L/G is determined. 2. 5.5 C  Cold water temp. Treeutok / Applied Thermal Engineering 38 (2012) 160e167 163 the right-hand side of equation (11). the procedure for calculating hmassA/L is computed using the enthalpy values at the measured temperatures. (hsw  ha) is the difference between the enthalpy of saturated air at the water temperatures and the enthalpy of air temperature at each location in the tower. This equation is used to calculate thermal demand based on the design temperatures and selected L/G.i  Tw.o Table 1 Cooling tower design condition. The L/G ratio is then calculated as follows. In temperatures relate to the range and the approach. (Tw. The cooling water value of (hmassA/L) can be obtained from equations (11) and (12). 3 is an example of a curve. If the effect of evaporation is ignored. Simulation calculation Cooling towers operate most of the time at conditions different than their design conditions therefore the data extracted from Fig.o  ha. Now.i) 36 C Total fan driver power 185 w Barometric press.w Tw. will affect the Starting with trial values of Appr for an ambient Twb and R. the range and the approach of the cooling tower.o ¼ Twb þ Appr (14) 2. and cooling water inlet and outlet temperatures. Modifications A procedure for simulating the performance of a cooling tower is the simultaneous solution of equations (11) and (12). (Tw. for a given inlet air wet-bulb temperature and range. its characteristics are described by equation (12) which (hmassA/L) will remain unchanged as long as the ratio of water-to-air loading (L/G) is constant.i  hw. mization. This is known as a demand curve.w Tw. For a given cooling tower. 3). (Twb. Tw. Fig. Cooling tower test rig configuration. tions.o  ha.5 C  Inlet wet-bulb temp.i ¼  G hw.o þ R (13) satisfied. as follows.i) 38. practice. it is possible to superimpose the tower characteristic curve (Fig. This provides the evaluation of tower characteristics (hmassA/L) on the basis of the true L/G. Weather condi.i ¼  (15) cp.4. on which the required hmassA/L. particularly ambient wet-bulb temperature. 5.i  hw.o   ha.o  ua. is plotted versus L/G with the approach as a parameter.o ua. Asvapoositkul. the intersect being the operating point for the tower being considered for the duty such as shown in Fig.o cp. 1. 6. A charac- teristic point is experimentally determined by first measuring an ambient dry bulb and wet-bulb temperatures.i) 29 C  Inlet dry bulb temp.

1.164 W.0 L L Lt P d 3 rt 3 wt Twb. Air velocity exception e one side of its walls was made of clear high strength was measured by a vane anemometer. The manually by means of a flow control valve and measured by tower test was conducted in accordance with the Cooling Fig.5 fore. Asvapoositkul. This is based on Merkel -2% Model. The spray nozzle was attached to a movable frame that enabled accurate placement of the nozzle spray. the air discharge is at its wet-bulb.5 Water flow rate Rotameter 2% 5 L/min Water temp. Its value is calculated from [1]: 30. which allowed for full spray 3.0 The CTI code determines the test value of (L/G)t from the average water flow rate and fan driver output power at the time of test. Schematic diagram of cooling tower test facility. Design conditions for the Table 2. RTD temperature probe 0. 31. And the test rig schematic is shown in Fig. 31.5 31. A 70 kW gas burner supplied the heat load to the 3. The tower’s inside dimensions glass thermometers. Measurement Instrument Accuracy Resolution +2% 32. Procedure coverage of the fill under test. The tower was made of Induced air was circulated counter flow by an axial flow fan. Comparison of wet-bulb temp. RTD temperature probe 2% 0.1 A It may be assumed that the air discharge is saturated.1  C Inlet/outlet air velocity Vane Anemometer 2% 0. tower are summarized in Table 1. The test section’s rain zone (falling water below the fill) was adjusted to 400 mm for all tests. In this experiment. Experiments a rotameter. The water was then delivered to an insulated tank where its temperature was maintained at a constant value during The experiment was performed in the induced draft counter testing with two supplemental electrical heaters each of 9 kW.1  C Twb. flow cooling tower test rig (see Fig. 7. 6). 7. The standard industrial cooling tower equipment and material with one fan speed could be varied by variable frequency drives.8  C 0. 3.o predicted ( oC ) Ambient wet/dry Temp.5 32.o exper.5 33.0 Specifications of the measuring devices.5       1  1   30.0 Fan power Multi-meter 2% 1 V. the spray pattern of the nozzle and Detector (RTD) temperature probe which calibrated to mercury-in- the interaction of the air and water. The flow was varied was kept constant while the flows of water and air were varied. There. 8.0 31.0 32. S.1 m/s 32. . Treeutok / Applied Thermal Engineering 38 (2012) 160e167 Table 2 33. 0. were 1000 mm  1000 mm with a total height of 3350 mm and The specifications of the measuring devices are shown in could accommodate up to 1500 mm of fill. the fill under test.2. Inlet and exit air wet and dry polycarbonate material that allowed direct observation of the drift bulb temperatures were measured with a Resistance Temperature eliminator. Apparatus circulated water. the inlet hot water temperature of the tower Water was circulated by a centrifugal pump. ( oC ) ¼ (17) G t G d Ld Pt rd wd Fig. at cooling tower exit between the experiment data and the predicted value from equation (16).

The effect of evaporation and the true air properties can be used to water flow rate was measured at every 20-min interval.i ¼ 38. 1. Cooling tower evaluations at inlet water temp. Asvapoositkul. Fig.10. it is necessary to know the air wet-bulb temperature at and L/G was 0. Fig. at 29  C entering wet-bulb temp. test values of discharged air properties without evaporation (TWE) and test fan driver output power (TFD). It reading was taken at every 30-min interval.5  C. 1. 4. no water evaporation are assumed. test values of discharged air properties (TDA). hmassA/L. The fill of 600 mm the inlet.2 and 1. A total of 2 readings should be noted that the result from equation (15) were were taken and then the average was computed. the was taken every 5-min. A total of 3 calculated the ratio of water-to-air loading (L/G) from equation (15). W. heat load and range were not varied by more than 2%. and then an average was calculated. The saturated air temperature Instantaneous air temperature readings fluctuated during the test. Comparison of L/G between the experiment data and the predicted value from Fig. and 60% RH.06. Comparison of hmassA/L calculated from experiment data L/G and predicted L/G from test values of discharged air properties (TDA). The enthalpy of air at the exit is approximated from equa- within the following variations from the test conditions. The maximum errors were found to be less exit air wet and dry bulb temperatures were measured at the center than 2%.14. To calculate tower characteristics (hmassA/L) from the Merkel According to the experiments testing data were Tw. S. of 38. Fan The values of L/G base on equations (15)e(17) were calculated and power consumption was measured by using a multi-meter. A compared with that of experimental data as shown in Fig.90. Predicted inlet water temp. at the exit can be determined easily from a Psychometric chart or but variations in average readings during the test period did not from a computer program [1]. 1. Inlet and in good agreement. ( oC ) Fig. A reading If the properties of air at the inlet and the exit are known. It can be seen that the outlet wet-bulb temperature was taken at every 5-min interval. the inlet and exit water temperature Twb. . test values of discharged air properties without evaporation (TWE) and test fan driver output power (TFD). and the water temperature at the inlet and the height was chosen for the experiments. 12.24. 9. Treeutok / Applied Thermal Engineering 38 (2012) 160e167 165 9 8 +5%CAPACITY 100%CAPACITY 7 -5%CAPACITY Range ( oC ) 6 5 4 3 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 wet-bulbe temp. A total of 12 temperatures from the experimental and predicted values are readings were taken. 9. 1. and then the average was computed. experimental and numerical values of discharged air wet-bulb After reaching steady state conditions. Fig.5  C equation. 8 shows the comparison of the exceed 1  C per hour for wet and dry bulb temperatures. 10. Circulating tion (16) where saturated air at the inlet and the exit as well as water flow. Application and comparison with Merkel model Technology Institute (CTI) Acceptance Test Code for Water-Cooling Towers ATC-105 [1]. readings were taken and then the average was computed.o. of each side of the louvers and that of the fan stack exit. 11. The test was conducted exit.

with a new method that included water evaporation and unsaturated air leaving the tower. determined from test values of discharged air properties (TDA) (12). Treeutok / Applied Thermal Engineering 38 (2012) 160e167 Fig. The other predicted values of (L/G) were determined from the test fan driver output power (TFD) that Fig.936. In the case where those two conditions are ignored (TWE). In considering other inlet water temperature with varying Twb and L/G ¼ 1. Asvapoositkul. The cooling tower capacity illustration in Fig. The line was fit to the model given in equation at water flow rate of 5% of the design flow rate.893 and those from TWE that gave r2 of 0. 0. shown in Fig.i ¼ 38. 15. Fig. Its operating characteristics were predicted as The difference among the data indicated the influence of L/G where described in section 2. This method was proposed by Fujita and Tezuka [3]. Fig. Conclusions A calculation method for predicting the behavior of induced draft wet cooling tower has been developed.980.3. Evaluation of tower performance (TFD). discharged air properties without evaporation (TWE) and that from equation (17) were determined from test fan driver output power 5. 11. result from TDA showed excellent agreement with hmassA/L ob- With properly selected demand curves (preferably with given tained from the experiment value of L/G. at design water circulation. conditions of the tower must be available (either from the manu- Fig. gave r2 of 0. Predicted inlet water temp. 2. 14. The values of n and c were found to be 0. Therefore.531 and 0. shown in Fig. 6.974 erably with given tower capacity 5%) the method could be and 0. TDA. water flow rates are within 5% and inlet wet-bulb temperatures are within þ3  C/-17  C from the design conditions [3]. The deviation was less than 2% therefore employed to meet a wide range of service requirements. The linear regression (r2) of the predicted values was ranked in ascending order as follows: TWE. 11 the methods were understood to be suitable since percent errors of illustrates evaluation cooling tower capacity curves for inlet water about 5%e10% always go with the heat balance in performance temperature.657.876. TFD and TDA with the values of In evaluating cooling tower thermal capacity. The linear regression (r2) constant inlet water temperature) and subject to certain L/G (pref- of the predicted values from TDA. inlet water temperatures are within 2  C. for 105% of design water circulation. for 95% of design water circulation. 12e15. Predicted inlet water temp. 2.657. While those two conditions were considered (TDA).5  C. TFD and TWE was 0. 11 was based on the assumption that the test conditions of the water flow rate and inlet water temperature were near design conditions. Tw. For practical use. S. see Figs. Predicted inlet water temp. the tower characteristic is (hmassA/L) obtained with L/G from experiments. water temperature if desired. In this illustration.163. at the design condition of Twb ¼ 29  C. this could be expanded to other inlet tests [3].936. 0. 13. Hence . The method has an advantage in that neither the measurement of air flow rate nor the calculation of hmassA/L was required. the maximum error from the predicted outlet wet-bulb temperatures was less than 2%. the design 0.764. 10 presented the calculated values of tower characteristics facturer or test data). the operator of such a cooling The values from TDA were plotted for the tower characteristic tower can determine the tower capability from the graph as shown in curve. while that from equation (16) were determined from test values of respectively. Fig. TWE and TFD. respectively.893 and 0. the predicted values of (L/G) were found to be best suited with those from the experiment with the linear regression (r2) of 0.166 W. respectively.

TFD and TWE were 0. Cooling Technology Institute. H. Shryock. A simplified method to evaluate cooling tower and both flow rate and temperature of inlet water near design condi. Cooling tower performance evaluation: Merkel.. [1] Cooling Technology Institute. P. Cooling Tower Performance. Atmospheric Water Cooling test data of the cooling tower. tions without the measurement of air flow rate and the calculation [5] M. ASME. Poppe. 2003. Experimental study on the thermal perfor- mance of a mechanical cooling tower with different drift eliminators. Tezuka. W. optimize counter flow wet cooling tower design for a given set of [6] J. and the Thai Cooling Tower Company. Acceptance Test Code for Water-Cooling Towers ATC-105. Office of Geothermal. Luc De Backer.C. Peterson. [7] D. [8] Stephen A. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Resource Application. the results can be used to determine or Conversion and Management 50 (2009) 490e497. 2000. Wet Cooling Tower: ‘Rule-of-Thumb’ Design and Simulation. can be presented in simple formats. predict the cooling tower thermal performance capability when [4] N. Houston. Calculations on thermal performance capability of mechanical draft cooling towers. Martinez. A. Lucas. Inc. Kloppers.980. and e-NTU methods of analysis.R.J. condenser performance using the CTI toolkit. A comprehensive approach to the analysis of cooling Acknowledgements tower performance. Subsequently. S. Energy of hmassA/L. the prediction operating conditions Equipment PTC 23-2003. Journal of Heat Transfer ASME Technical Bulletin (August 1961) R-61-P-13. . Treeutok / Applied Thermal Engineering 38 (2012) 160e167 167 the results of the calculated values of tower characteristics References (hmassA/L) where the r2 of the predicted values from TDA. Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbine and Power 127/1 (2005).S. operating conditions. 1981.G. 1984. The method is also applied to [3] T. through the MAG Window I Program (Grant No. With the available data either from the design conditions or the [2] The American Society of Mechanical Engineers. KrÖger. Baker. Viedma. CTI Journal 30 (1) (2009). Leeper. [9] D. This research has been supported by the Thailand Research Fund U.876. DE-AC07e76ID01570. Bulletin of JSEM 27 (225) (1984) 490e497. D. S. respectively. New York.974 and 0. under DOE Contract No. Chemical Publishing Co. MRG-WI525E078). Asvapoositkul.A. 0. Baker. Fujita. New York. TX.