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Cooling Towers: Water-Treatment Options Advance

By Brad Buecker and Raymond M. Post, ChemTreat |

Water-treatment programs for cooling towers have evolved in recent years, favoring non-phosphorus programs today. This article reviews the impact on water chemistry and operating reliability Cooling towers are a critical component of many industrial facilities. Cooling towers evaporate only pure water, forcing the minerals in the water to progressively concentrate, or “cycle up.” The enriched mineral content makes the water more corrosive and can lead to the deposition of sparingly soluble salts, such as calcium carbonate, on critical heat -transfer surfaces. The resulting design and operating challenges have become particularly acute following the gradual phase-out of chromate-based treatment programs (beginning in the 1970s) due to human health concerns. However, the most widely used replacement programs, whose core chemistry is based on the use of inorganic and organic phosphates, has proven to be less effective and much more difficult to control than the earlier chromate-based corrosion inhibitor programs. Today, with phosphorus discharge to receiving bodies of water being restricted (or even banned in some places), ongoing effort is underway to find suitable alternatives, with movement toward treatment programs that do not…
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