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1. Abstract
2. Introduction
3. Literature Review
4. Cooling Tower Basics
o Components of Cooling Tower
5. Merkel Theory
6. Computational fluid dynamics
o Definition
o History
o Fundamentals of CFD
7. Work to be done
8. Conclusion
Cooling towers are essentially heat removing devices that removes waste heat to atmosphere.
They are widely used in a wide range of areas like oil refineries, petrochemical and other chemical
plants, thermal power stations and HVAC systems for cooling buildings. A natural draft wet cooling
tower uses natural air drift for movement of air. It is mainly used in power stations. A lot of research
goes around too make these cooling towers more efficient. The importance of NDWCT efficiency
can be drawn from the fact that a single degree rise in outlet water in a power plant substantially
increases the power production cost.
Computational fluid Dynamics offers a platform to perform simulation of a working cooling tower
and checking its various parameters without actually modelling an actual one. Currently only 1d and
2d simulations of NDWCT is being used in cooling tower design. This study aims to study the
various models that are currently used to design cooling towers and to do a literature research work
that has been done in the CFD simulation of different cooling tower designs and to find out the
prospects of future work that can be done in order to get a better, more efficient and commercially
viable design. The main contribution of the project is to answer several important questions relating
to natural draft wet cooling tower (NDWCT) modelling, design and optimisation.
Specifically, the current work aims to conduct a detailed analysis of NDWCT and basic knowledge of
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). A general study of various cooling towers along with their
common parts has been done. Followed by specific and detailed study of NDWCT along with its
main parts like structure, fills and its types, drift eliminators, water basin and water spray system etc.
Cooling towers are an integral part of many
industrial processes. Their purpose is to reject
waste heat. They are often used in power
generation plants to cool the condenser feed-
water as shown in Fig. Here, the cooling tower
uses ambient air to cool warm water from the
condenser in a secondary cycle.
1. Dry and Wet :
In dry cooling towers the water is passed through finned tubes forming a heat exchanger so only
sensible heat is transferred to the air.
In wet cooling towers the water is sprayed directly into the air so evaporation occurs and both latent heat
and sensible heat are exchanged. In a hybrid tower a combination of both approaches are used.
In a hybrid tower a combination of both approaches are used.
2. Forced or Natural Draft towers :
Forced Draft towers tend to be relatively small structures where the air flow is driven by fan.
In a natural draft cooling tower the air flow is generated by natural convection only. The draft is
established by the density difference between the warm air inside the tower and the cool dense ambient
air outside the tower.
3. Counter-flow and Cross-flow cooling towers.
In cross-flow configuration, the air flows at some angle to water flow.
In counter-flow the air flows in the opposite direction to water flow.

Air flow through this tower is produced
by the density differential that exists
between the heated (less dense) air
inside the stack and the relatively
cool (more dense) ambient air outside
the tower.
They are used extensively in the field of
electric power generation, where large
unified heat loads exist.
In a NDWCT in counter flow
configuration, there are three heat and
mass transfer zones, the spray zone,
the fill zone and the rain zone.

A significant number of studies have specifically addressed the combined heat and mass transfer
processes in a wet cooling tower and developed useful non-dimensional transfer coefficients to rate
tower performance.
The most famous of these is the Merkel model, which contains simplifying assumptions which introduce
widely known inaccuracies. Another more accurate model was proposed by Poppe which, although it
avoided the Merkel assumptions, has not been widely adopted.
Tower modelling has traditionally been very simple, involving application of one of the above thermal
models with a simple hydraulic flow calculation and treating the rest of the tower sometimes very
superficially. Recently published work has offered some improvement on these methods.
In 2004, Kroger and co-workers have produced the most advanced and detailed one dimensional model
in literature to date supported by a wealth of experimental work on tower loss coefficients.
Kroger model also made clear that the rain zone can provide up to 30% of the overall cooling and the
spray zone 5-10%.

The first two dimensional numerical CFD models of cooling towers began to appear in literature in the
1980s. In 1983 Majumdar presented a two dimensional finite difference model of flow in a natural draft
and mechanical draft wet cooling tower named VERA2D.
Majumdar model employed an algebraic turbulence model and used a heat and mass transfer
calculation based on the Merkel model. The model neglects water flow and heat transfer in the rain and
spray zones and does not take condensation into account. The computational domain did not extend
beyond the tower inlet or outlet so the rain zone inlet air velocity profile would not have been accurate.
In 1988, Benton and Waldrop developed a semi-two dimensional model employing the Bernoulli
equation for calculating the air flow. The method was less sophisticated than VERA2D but could be run
very economically using the modest computer resources of the time.
In 1990, Radosavljevic presented both an axisymmetric and three dimensional CFD model of a NDWCT
employing an algebraic turbulence model and found reasonable agreement with experimental data.
Numerically, the model was an advance on VERA2D. The author reviewed the heat and mass transfer
models and included the effect of condensation on heat and mass transfer.
In 2002, Hawlader and Liu developed a two dimensional axisymmetric NDWCT model where the heat
and mass transfer in the fill was represented with the source terms as functions of the Merkel model.
The spray zone was neglected. The authors employed an algebraic turbulence model. In this study the
computational domain did not extend beyond the tower inlet or tower outlet, again resulting in probable
errors in prediction of tower outlet pressure and rain zone inlet air velocity profile.
In 2006, Al-Waked and Behnia present one of the few NDWCT studies, using FLUENT. The authors
developed both a three dimensional model of a NDDCT (natural draft dry cooling tower) and a NDWCT
to examine the effect of wind and performance improving structures such as wind breaks and
surrounding buildings. In the NDWCT model the authors used a Lagrangian scheme, to model both the
water flow in the fill and the droplet phase, using the commercial CFD package FLUENT.

Heat is transferred from water drops to the surrounding air by the
transfer of sensible and latent heat

The basic components of an evaporative tower are: Frame and casing, fill, cold water basin, drift
eliminators, air inlet, louvers, nozzles and fans.
Frame and casing: Most towers have structural frames that support the exterior enclosures (casings),
motors, fans, and other components. With some smaller designs, such as some glass fiber units, the
casing may essentially be the frame.
Fill: Most towers employ fills (made of plastic or wood) to facilitate heat transfer by maximising water
and air contact. Fill can either be splash or film type.
With splash fill, water falls over successive layers of horizontal splash bars, continuously breaking into smaller
droplets, while also wetting the fill surface. Plastic splash fill promotes better heat transfer than the wood splash
Film fill consists of thin, closely spaced plastic surfaces over which the water spreads, forming a thin film in
contact with the air. These surfaces may be flat, corrugated, honeycombed, or other patterns. The film type of fill
is the more efficient and provides same heat transfer in a smaller volume than the splash fill.
Cold water basin: The cold water basin, located at or near the bottom of the tower, receives the cooled water
that flows down through the tower and fill. The basin usually has a sump or low point for the cold water
discharge connection. In many tower designs, the cold water basin is beneath the entire fill.
Drift eliminators: These capture water droplets entrapped in the air stream that otherwise would be lost to
the atmosphere.
Air inlet: This is the point of entry for the air entering a tower. The inlet may take up an entire side of a
towercross flow design or be located low on the side or the bottom of counter flow designs.
Louvers: Generally, cross-flow towers have inlet louvers. The purpose of louvers is to equalize air flow into
the fill and retain the water within the tower. Many counter flow tower designs do not require louvers.
Nozzles: These provide the water sprays to wet the fill. Uniform water distribution at the top of the fill is
essential to achieve proper wetting of the entire fill surface. Nozzles can either be fixed in place and have
either round or square spray patterns or can be part of a rotating assembly as found in some circular cross-
section towers.
Dry-bulb temperature. Dry-bulb temperature (t
) usually referred to as the air temperature is the
property of air that is most commonly used. When people refer to the temperature of the air, they are normally
referring to its dry-bulb temperature. The dry-bulb temperature is an indicator of heat content and is shown
along the bottom axis of a psychometric chart. The vertical lines extending upward from this axis are constant-
temperature lines.
Wet-bulb temperature. Wet-bulb temperature (t
) is the reading when the bulb of a thermometer is covered
with a wet cloth, and the instrument is whirled around in a sling. The wet-bulb temperature is the lowest
temperature that can be reached by evaporation of water only.
Relative humidity (RH). RH is the ratio of the partial pressure of water vapor in air over the saturation vapor
pressure at a given temperature. When the relative humidity is 100%, the air is saturated and therefore, water
will not evaporate further. Therefore, when the RH is 100% the wet-bulb temperature is the same as the dry-
bulb temperature, because the water cannot evaporate any more.
Range. The range is the difference in temperature of inlet hot water (t
) and outlet cold water (t
), t
. A
high cooling-tower range means that the cooling tower has been able to reduce the water temperature
Approach. The approach is the difference in temperature of outlet cold water and ambient wet-bulb
temperature, t
. The lower the approach, the better the cooling tower performance. Although both range and
approach should be monitored, the approach is a better indicator of cooling tower performance.

Cooling tower capability. The capability of the cooling tower is a measure of how close the tower can bring the
hot water temperature to the wet-bulb temperature of the entering air. A larger cooling tower (that is, more air or
more fill) will produce a closer approach (colder outlet water) for a given heat load, flowrate and entering air
condition. The lower the wet-bulb temperature, which indicates either cool air, low humidity or a combination of
the two, the lower the cooling tower can cool the water. Capability tests are conducted per the ATC-105 Code of
the Cooling Tower Institute. The thermal performance of the cooling tower is thus affected by the entering wet-
bulb temperature. The entering air dry-bulb temperature has an insignificant effect on thermal performance.

Effectiveness. A cooling towers effectiveness is quantified by the ratio of the actual range to the ideal range, that
is, the difference between cooling water inlet temperature and ambient wet-bulb temperature. It is defined in
terms of percentage.

Liquid-to-gas ratio (L/G). The L/G ratio of a cooling tower is the ratio of the liquid (water) mass flow
rate (L) to gas (air) mass flow rate (G). Cooling towers have certain design values, but seasonal
variations require adjustment and tuning of water and air flow rates to get the best cooling tower
Number of transfer units (NTU). Also called the tower coefficient, the NTU is a numerical value that
results from theoretical calculations based on a set of performance characteristics. The value of NTU is
also representative of the degree of difficulty for the cooling process. The NTU corresponding to a set of
hypothetical conditions is called the required coefficient and is an evaluation of the problem. The same
calculations applied to a set of test conditions is called the available coefficient of the tower involved.
The available coefficient is not a constant but varies with operating conditions. The operating
characteristic of a cooling tower is developed from an empirical correlation that shows how the available
coefficient varies with operating conditions.
Cooling capacity. The cooling capacity of a tower is the heat rejected [kcal/h or TR (refrigeration tons;
1 TR = 12,000 Btu/h = 3,025.9 kcal/h)], and is determined by the product of mass flow rate of water,
times the specific heat times the temperature difference.

The early investigators of cooling tower theory grappled with the problem presented by the dual transfer
of heat and mass. The Merkel theory overcomes this by combining the two into a single process based
on enthalpy potential.
Dr. Merkel developed a cooling tower theory for the mass (evaporation of a small portion of water) and
sensible heat transfer between the air and water in a counter flow cooling tower. The theory considers
the flow of mass and energy from the bulk water to an interface, and then from the interface to the
surrounding air mass. The flow crosses these two boundaries, each offering resistance resulting in
gradients in temperature, enthalpy, and humidity ratio.
Merkel demonstrated that the total heat transfer is directly proportional to the difference between the
enthalpy of saturated air at the water temperature and the enthalpy of air at the point of contact with
The main assumptions of Merkel theory are the following:
1. The saturated air film is at the temperature of the bulk water.
2. The saturated air film offers no resistance to heat transfer.
3. The vapor content of the air is proportional to the partial
pressure of the water vapor.
4. The heat transferred from the air to the film by convection is
proportional to the heat transferred from the film to the
ambient air by evaporation.
5. The specific heat of the air-water vapor mixture and the heat
of vaporization are constant.
6. The loss of water by evaporation is neglected.
7. The force driving heat transfer is the differential enthalpy
between the saturated and bulk air.

The cooling characteristic, a degree of difficulty to cooling is represented by the Merkel equation:
K = overall enthalpy transfer coefficient, lb/h-ft

a = Surface area per unit tower volume, ft

V = Effective tower volume, ft

L = Water mass flow rate, lb/h

Merkel Equation basically says that at any point in the tower, heat and water vapor are transferred
into the air due (approximately) to the difference in the enthalpy of the air at the surface of the water
and the main stream of the air. Thus, the driving force at any point is the vertical distance between
the two operating lines. And therefore, the performance demanded from the cooling tower is the
inverse of this difference.
The solution of the Merkel equation
can be represented by the
performance demand diagram.
The KaV/L value is equal to the area
under the curve, and represents the
sum of NTUs defined for a cooling
tower range.

This cooling process can best be
explained on a psychometric chart,
which plots enthalpy versus
temperature. The process is illustrated
in the so-called driving-force diagram
The air film is represented by the
water operating line on the saturation
curve. The main air is represented by
the air operating line, the slope of
which is the ratio of liquid (water) to air

Evaporation Rate is the fraction of the circulating water that is evaporated in the cooling process.
A typical design evaporation rate is about 1% for every 12.5C range at typical design conditions.
It will vary with the season, since in colder weather there is more sensible heat transfer from the water
to the air, and therefore less evaporation.
The evaporation rate has a direct impact on the cooling tower makeup water requirements.

Drift is water that is carried away from the tower in the form of droplets with the air discharged from the
Most towers are equipped with drift eliminators to minimize the amount of drift to a small fraction of a
percent of the water circulation rate.
Drift has a direct impact on the cooling tower makeup water requirements.
Recirculation is warm, moist air discharged from the tower that mixes with the incoming air and re-
enters the tower.
This increases the wet bulb temperature of the entering air and reduces the cooling capability of the
During cold weather operation, recirculation may also lead to icing of the air intake areas
The water is introduced into the tower through spray nozzles approximately 10m above the basin. The primary
function of the spray zone is simply to distribute the water evenly across the tower. The water passes through
a small spray zone as small fast moving droplets before entering the fill.
There are a range of fill types. Generally they tend to be either a splash bar fill type or film fill type. The splash
bar type acts to break up water flow into smaller droplets with splash bars or other means. A film fill is a more
modern design which forces the water to flow in film over closely packed parallel plates. This significantly
increases the surface area for heat and mass transfer.
As the water leaves the fill and enters the rain zone, the water film breakup into droplets again before it is
finally collected in the basin below the tower.
The air enters the tower radially through the rain zone where it initially flows in a part counter flow part cross
flow manner before being drawn axially into the fill and up into the tower. The air leaving the fill is generally
supersaturated. Drift eliminators are placed above the spray nozzles to recover entrained water spray droplets
in the flow.
Cooling tower performance is important as inefficient operation can place serious limitations on plant
An underperforming cooling tower will have an increased cooling water outlet temperature and therefore
increase the condenser back-pressure. This has the effect of decreasing the turbine performance and
station electrical generation output.
A one degree Kelvin rise in water outlet temperature may be equivalent to a 5kPa increase in condenser
back-pressure (depending on operating point) and a 0.3% change in turbine heat rate.
For a 660MW(e) unit to generate the same power output under these conditions, it would require an
additional 5, 200 tonnes of coal per annum, which at a price of $35AUD per tonne is about
$180,000AUD per annum.
This provides strong motivation to improve the heat and mass transfer characteristics of power station
cooling towers and produce reliable methods to optimise and design them to specification
The accuracy to which the flow field is computed has improved as turbulence models have advanced
and computational power has increased. Unfortunately the availability of the data to validate the models
has not progressed.
No models to date achieve more detailed validation than a simple comparison of the tower water outlet
temperature with manufacturers data or full scale measurements.
Currently, one dimensional models are usually employed to design cooling towers. There are a number
of deficiencies with their use however, that have not been addressed.
In addition, despite the number of numerical NDWCT models in literature, few examine the detail of the
heat and mass transfer in the tower and provide designers with immediate conclusions and
recommendations to produce better cooling towers.
There has been no optimisation study in literature that considers two dimensional effects and the
possibility of radially varying the fill depth and water distribution.
A major part of this study focusses on the use of computational fluid dynamics, the following section
gives a basic overview of cfd.
Computational fluid dynamics (CFD), is a branch of fluid mechanics that uses numerical methods and
algorithms to solve and analyze problems that involve fluid flows. Computers are used to perform the
calculations required to simulate the interaction of liquids and gases with surfaces defined by boundary
conditions, it is a field of study devoted to solution of the equations of fluid flow through use of a
Modern engineers apply both experimental and CFD analyses, and the two complement each other.
The current state of computational fluid dynamics is that CFD can handle laminar flows with ease, but
turbulent flows of practical engineering interest are impossible to solve without invoking turbulence
models. Unfortunately, no turbulence model is universal, and a turbulent CFD solution is only as good as
the appropriateness of the turbulence model. In spite of this limitation, the standard turbulence models
yield reasonable results for many practical engineering problems.

In the first step geometry is created in 2 D using reference data providing different parts of cooling tower
considering important details. The structure of whole model imagined in advance, because the possibilities
in the subsequent steps depended on the composition of different geometrical shapes .Assumptions were
made to take into account the main features of real construction.
2-D symmetry model is developed, fix the fill corresponding to real arrangement.
Inlet and outlet space is created at bottom and top of the tower
Cooling tower shell is considered as a wall with zero thickness and its profile is formed by curve by
three point including throat.
Assuming symmetrical thermal and flow field in the model, only one half of the cooling tower is
modeled with a symmetry boundary condition
After geometry mesh is generated. During mesh generation much attention to be paid with
mesh quality requirement recommendation in FLUENT . In order to have an appropriate resolution
of the flow field inside the cooling tower the computational domain is discretised into a large
number of finite volume cells.
Different parts is meshed with different element sizing .
Fill zone must be fine meshed.
By using mapped face meshing mesh the model with appropriate element sizing.
After mesh generation create name of different parts of cooling tower.
The inner and outer surface of the wall inside the model have identical shapes but are
disconnected, so the mesh sizes on the two sides of the walls can be different.
Velocity inlet boundary condition is used to define the inlet velocity and other properties of air.
Velocity magnitude of air takes normal to the boundary of inlet.
Turbulence is taken as intensity and length scale. Thermal condition and species in mole
fraction is defined.
Pressure out let is defined at out let of air .Other zone also define likewise.
The governing equations for incompressible steady fluid flow can be written in general form as:
(u ) = S
where is the air density (kg/m3), u is the fluid velocity (m/s), is the flow variable (u, v,w, k, ,
T, ) and is the diffusion coefficient for and S the source term.
The continuity equation for conservation of mass in Cartesian coordinates for transient flow can be
given as,
/ t + (v) = Sm
where Sm is the mass source term. The steady equation is obtained by simply neglecting the transient
terms, / t , from the left hand side.
The report shows the history, functioning and importance of cooling towers in particular natural draft wet
cooling tower. The major objective of the report was to study the current research that has been done in
the field of cooling towers especially numerical and CFD modelling and to find out the future prospects,
the following conclusions can be draw
1. There has been few full scale experimental studies published due to the expense and difficulty of
working in operating cooling towers. Most cooling tower manufacturers and operators treat the
information as proprietary and confidential.
2. The Merkel model is the most accepted and widely used model to study the performance
characteristics of cooling towers The Merkel model cannot be used to derive separate mass and
heat transfer coefficients or accurately specify a mass source term because of the simplifications in
its derivation.
3. Currently, one dimensional models are usually employed to design cooling towers
There are a number of deficiencies with their use however, that have not been addressed. There has
been no detailed study examining the deficiencies of a one dimensional model as compared to a model
which calculates the multi-dimensional flow field and heat transfer.
In addition, despite the number of numerical NDWCT models in literature, few examine the detail of the
heat and mass transfer in the tower and provide designers with immediate conclusions and
recommendations to produce better cooling towers.