RCC Cooling Towers: “Present/Future Monuments of Industries”

Recently visited a large PSU steel factory.

They have eleven cells of RCC induced draught cooling tower for power plant.

The RCC cooling towers are quite old and occupy a huge area.

The revamp and repair cost with today’s economics is almost equal to a new jet cooling tower or even wooden cooling tower i.e total cost with complete structure of a cooling tower.

The repairs in these RCC cooling towers is only for mechanical components and plastic components. Other RCC repair/repainting/epoxy coating/structural enhancement are not even considered.

The user is well aware of the fact that, the latest RCC fan type cooling towers are of newer design, more power efficient and more compact. The engineering technologies are changing very fast. Every decade brings drastic changes in design, so, equipments keep getting obsolete by their own next generation designs.

Also when the huge investment in large RCC cooling tower sits idle or goes kaput, the situation becomes grimmer.

In recent years, we have seen a lot of cooling towers sitting idle in the form of “non moving monuments” when installed in gas based projects or similar projects where fuel costs or fuel availability or some policy change become the burning issue.

In these kind of situations if the choice of cooling tower/s is based on technologies which are energy-saving with quick payback period, adaptable, flexible, expandable, modular and can be moved, can be made into smaller units, can be changed and modified to newer versions, then, the investments can be salvaged.

One good example is cooling towers based on jet technology.

These are

  1. Modular

  2. Expandable

  3. Can be dismantled easily & shifted

  4. Can be broken into smaller units

  5. Can be partly used

  6. Can be kept idle without any mandatory care [a must with different types of cooling tower]

  7. Can be easily shared with other utilities.

The irony is; the RCC structure used for cooling tower can not be converted easily into any other use. It can not become an office block or a store-room . To break the structure itself is a huge herculean task and very costly affair.

One of the top executive of Urea –Ammonia complex of fertilizer industry had jokingly told me “We all (executives) will retire but these huge RCC cooling towers (and with each passing days less efficient or needing a lot of care) will stay till the very end “

My own experience in PSU steel as well as fertilizer industries is quite amusing. During the replacement of existing RCC cooling towers with jet towers on energy-saving basis in the case of a fertilizer industry, the project got delayed as the buyer could not get cost-effective solution to discard old RCC towers as it was “a non productive cost, difficult to justify ( sic)“

In case of Steel PSU, out of 4 cells of RCC only 2 were knocked down. Subsequently the idea of breaking remaining RCC cells was dropped and they were left at their respective places in idle condition.

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