Inspectioneering Journal

About Cooling Tower Inspections

Cooling Tower Inspections are visual and subjective. Different people see different things!

By George L. Getz at The George Company. This article appears in the November/December 2003 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.

Foreword: The following article on the art and science of cooling tower inspections is part one in a series. This first is a primer. We recommend that readers consider using this article to edit their engineering practices for cooling tower inspection against. Subsequent articles will cover case histories.

Section 1

1. What are your goals and objectives?

  • Annual Condition – Maintenance Inspection?
  • Specific Repair Inspection?
  • Modernization and Thermal Performance Upgrade Inspection?
  • Do you expect a construction project will result from this inspection?
  • Will this inspection be used to justify spending funds from this year’s budget or to provide a budget for next year?

(Budget driven projects rarely succeed in solving cooling tower problems. The condition of the cooling tower should drive all work for repair - replacement activities. The objective of an inspection and resulting work is to restore the cooling tower to meet original design integrity.)

2. Are you prepared for a cooling tower inspection?

  • Has Management, Safety, Production, Operations, Maintenance and Inspection Services been brought into the process of having the cooling tower inspected?
  • Are these groups fully aware that a construction project is the likely result of an inspection?
  • Have the concerns and interests of each group been considered?
  • Does Safety, Production, Operations, Maintenance or the Inspection Department have a list of complaints/concerns about the cooling tower?
  • Have all historical documents related to this cooling tower been located?
    • Original Purchasing - Manufacturing documents, Drawings, Acceptance Test Reports, Previous inspection reports, Previous Repair Projects.
    • Relevant miscellaneous repairs, or design changes. (Fans or spray nozzle design changes for example.)

3. Who is going to do the Inspection?

  • Plant Inspection Group?
    • What is the level of experience the Inspection Department has with wood and wood structures?
  • Cooling Tower Manufacturer or Repair Company?
  • Independent Cooling Tower Consultant?
    • Will the plant have a man lift and certified operator available to assist the Inspector with the external inspection? For Cross-Flow Cooling Tower inspections this is necessary for a full-view inspection.
    • Are you prepared to allow the inspector to take photographs in and around the cooling tower? A photograph is an invaluable tool for the inspection process. Photographs eliminate guesswork and usually result in a more thorough Scope of Work.
  • Are you prepared to provide Hole Watch – Coordinator personnel during the inspection? Will you accompany the Inspector?

4. What documentation do you expect to receive after the Inspection?

  • Recommendations Report for review by all interested plant personnel to plan and agree on a Scope of Work?
  • Scope of Work plan suitable for soliciting bids from various qualified manufacturers and repair specialty companies?
  • Thermal Performance rating evaluations for existing conditions and potential thermal upgrade conditions?
  • Drawings of particular items scheduled for design changes?
  • Project equipment and materials specifications?
  • Invitation to bid document, outlining special project conditions or mandatory considerations?

It may be useful to keep in mind that an “order of magnitude cost” may be available from an Inspector, but until each bidder has had an opportunity to quote on a project, relative actual costs cannot be determined. Including budget estimates. Purchasing power and manpower efficiencies are unique to each bidder.

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