Industrial Plant Cooling: 12 + 1 Things to Consider before Looking for a Manufacturer
Is this the first time you have to deal with the cooling of your industrial plant? Or maybe do you wish to see a complete reference framework to carry out this task for your company?
These guidelines will help you choose the best cooling technology for your plant’s specific project needs.
by Giorgio Lorenzetti, Technical Advisor at MITA Cooling Technologies
1.What fluid do you need to cool? Water, gas, another fluid?
The decision on which cooling technology to acquire must necessarily start from the type of fluid to be cooled: water, refrigerant fluid, steam …
Generally speaking, different fluids require different cooling systems; or, better still, some systems are preferred to other ones according to the type of fluid to be cooled. For example, if you have to directly cool process water you could choose an open-circuit evaporative cooling tower, built with materials suitable for the purpose. This is particularly true if you have to deal with partially dirty or aggressive water.
On the other hand, refrigerant gas condensation can be better achieved by means of an evaporative or adiabatic condenser.
2. What kind of plant is it? Food, metal treatment, energy…
The building context is a further element conditioning your choice: there can be both problems relating fluid nature or spaces available for installing the cooling system, consider.
Visual-environmental impact (dimensions of the equipment) or acoustic issues are also of importance: they should not be neglected while choosing your cooler. Today there are technical measures to reduce noise levels of both evaporative and adiabatic coolers.
3. Combined with which other industrial machinery? Chiller, compressor …
A further element directs the choice towards the type of equipment most suitable for the case: that is, the type of cooling that you want to achieve. For example, direct or indirect cooling (in this case via an exchanger).
It is also necessary to consider how “delicate” the plant is, both in terms of management and any maintenance interventions: an industrial plant must ensure production continuity and medium-long maintenance intervals. On the other hand, an air conditioning or seasonal operation system is usually subject to scheduled checks and controls during periods of inactivity.
In this sense, an open or closed circuit evaporative cooling tower or (in the case of refrigerant gases) an evaporative condenser, can be more “robust” systems than an air or adiabatic cooler. The latter, may be more subject to getting dirty in the area of the finned coils when installed in an industrial plant.
4. What is the main point of attention? Performance, savings, footprint, …
An “economical” cooling system may not be the most efficient at the same time. It is necessary to make a careful overall and preventive evaluation of both the initial investment and the return on investments in terms of direct (system efficiency) and indirect (reduced need for maintenance) benefits .
In this sense, it is better to opt for a more efficient and suitable system for your needs in perspective, rather than being conditioned by the cost of the equipment.
In addition to the thermal power to be dissipated, the decisive element is the temperature at which you want to cool the fluid or condense the gas: it is useless to exceed downwards if it is not strictly necessary. In fact, many processes only need to dissipate more or less high amounts of heat: therefore without having to reach lower limits that would be stressful for the equipment.
5. What latitude are you at? Wet and dry bulb …
The thermo-hygrometric conditions of the place of installation must decisively direct the choice towards the best cooling system.
A geographical area with low temperatures, even if with high humidity, will affect the choice towards air systems. While areas with high average temperatures and humidity will convey the choice towards evaporative or, at least, adiabatic systems.
This is obviously not an absolute rule: what has been said above applies to the lower temperature limit of the fluid or gas required and the size of the system. However, an appropriate choice in this sense makes it easier to achieve efficiency and optimization both for installation and management costs.
6. What output temperature do you want (apart from latitude)?
As for the previous point, the thermo-hygrometric characteristics provide a precise reference in relation to the lower limit that can be reached by the cooling water or, at least, which system to use to reach this limit.
Some processes, for example the molding of plastic materials, generally require rather low cooling water temperatures: to the point of requiring refrigeration units possibly combined with evaporative or dry systems in cold seasons. These are therefore rather complex systems, which are able to combine different cooling situations and to offer maximum efficiency in the various annual climatic conditions.
7. What precautions do you need to consider?
We are talking about a series of factors peculiar to the system or the installation area: ice, aggressive water or to be kept clean, silence for nearby civil buildings, …
Further important elements of choice: the type of plant facilities in which the cooling system is to be installed (i.e. civil, commercial, industrial) as well as the plant size. Civil or commercial users of small and medium thermal power (up to 1 MW) are preferably served by air or adiabatic systems. The remaining industrial and / or medium-high thermal power users are generally subservient to evaporative cooling systems: they are more compact, economical and efficient.
The specific operating conditions of the system constitute another determining element: continuous operation, for example, implies that the equipment must operate without problems in opposite climatic conditions. Instead, an installation in an urban context, or in any case sensitive to the “noise” aspect, must be able to guarantee very low noise levels and in compliance with the regulations in force.
8. How big is your system (and your future cooler)?
The “physical” dimensions of the necessary cooler must be considered not only to assess whether the space that you plan to dedicate is sufficient, but also to limit visual impacts that can sometimes represent a constraint.
Of course, the other factors listed above have priority in orienting the choice of the best cooling technology.
9. What logistical aspects to consider?
Logistics also has its importance in choosing the best solution. The availability of water or not can point towards a water or air system. Furthermore, the presence of a previously built system (as in the case of a replacement), can condition the choice in order to optimize the construction costs.
The term “logistics” also includes the choice of the physical positioning of the cooling system: some installations are made on the roofs of both industrial and commercial buildings due to space problems: this implies bringing electrical and hydraulic power supplies to a height.
10. What services do you need? Total water management, remote management, spare parts,…?
Buying a “cooling system” requires adequate pre-sales consultancy support and the guarantee of a reactive and efficient after-sales service.
Some companies have structured themselves to provide the customer with complete “packages” which include also technical rooms within which they are inserted in addition to the cooling system itself: the circulation pumps, the electrical panel, the water treatment system and hot and cooled water collection tanks. The customer only has to bring the hot water and cooled water pipes to the offered system.
Subsequently, the entire management of the cooling “kit” is entrusted to the panel that manages the system. Generally speaking, all this can be equipped with a connection for remote control with a view to industry 4.0.
11. What maintenance level do you need?
In the context of the after-sales service mentioned above, another point to consider is the assistance relating to scheduled and extraordinary maintenance of the cooling system. Each equipment must be equipped with a control and scheduled maintenance plan. Nevertheless, the best solution is to rely on a Company which includes Service as an activity: a presence alongside the Customer at periodic deadlines to check all cooler’s conditions.
After-sales assistance service has the same importance than the support than technical-commercial advisory phase, if not even greater: the after-sales service must be continuous and always fast and effective. A kind of constant presence alongside the customer for optimal plant management.
12. Does the supplier you choose have good references?
In the era of web research, the reviews left by previous users and references attributable to systems built are an important business card that cannot be overlooked, preferably in the same sector.
The references of the specific sector to which they belong are important both to have the guarantee that the Supplier already has experience in the application: any related problems have already been addressed and resolved during previous installations.
13. … The other questions are asked by a (good) cooling advisor!
The cooling system supplier must first of all be a good cooling advisor, even more than a good manufacturer and seller.
Advisory is an important aspect. It guarantees technical support during the choice phase and is an indication of knowledge of the specific sector: this is a distinctive and preferable element in all phases of the purchasing process.