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Cooling towers?

  1. Feb 6, 2014 #1
    after visiting my fathers job and noticing the tons of cooling towers, i wanted to know if there was a way to prevent/ conserve the lost steam and heat. At the refinery the cooling towers are used to cool water from multiple applications from varying temperatures. A water pump could replace a cooling tower and create steam that could be used else where in the plant(though steam is already generated on site, but this approach would be simpler).The only issues besides a large upfront cost and maintance is the loss of cooling water which may or may not be reused in the refining process (though I'm told by my father is isnt) I'm just kinda brainstorming and would love to hear thoughts and ideas
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 6, 2014 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to PF!

    The basic answer is "yes", but you have a few misconceptions about plant thermodynamics:

    1. Yes, you can save the water vapor. The most common way to do this is with a dry cooler: http://www.colmaccoil.com/drycoolers/
    It's just a heat exchanger that you circulate the water through - like a car radiator. It uses less water, but more energy than a cooling tower and is more expensive. So it is a tradeoff.

    2. An engineer wouldn't typically call that "steam" since it is just water vapor mixed with air, that you see because it is condensing out of the air. Steam is water vapor that is not in air and is therefore much hotter. This matters because the energy in cooling tower water is very low grade, meaning it isn't much warmer than ambient air, which makes it not very useful to recover unless you have a specific need for such low grade heat (such as simultaneous heating and cooling of water or air). You definitely couldn't use it to generate plant steam. The lowest typical grade of plant steam is 15 psi/250F whereas the water vapor coming out of a tower is a small fraction of atmospheric pressure and at most 85F.

    3. I'm not sure what you have in mind with a water pump, but a pump is of course already used to circulate the water through the cooling tower. And pumps don't create steam. Not sure what you were getting at there.
  4. Feb 6, 2014 #3
    Sorry about the confusion, I was trying to refer to a heat pump instead of a water pump
  5. Feb 6, 2014 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    No sorry needed: a heat pump is a definite possibility and often used in heating/air conditioning systems that require simultaneous heating and cooling.
  6. Feb 9, 2014 #5


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