The Importance of Cooling Tower Inspections: Q&A with Subject Matter Expert, Matt Wooden – Part 1

Mar 29, 2024 | Cooling Towers | 0 comments

Performing routine inspections on cooling towers is a crucial step in increasing the reliability of the structure and extending the design life of the cooling water system. Inspection times should align with scheduled outages to minimize the financial impact of lost production time and to ensure the inspection can be performed safely. We sat down with Brindley Engineering’s Matt Wooden to learn more about his thoughts on cooling tower maintenance and cooling tower inspections. Welcome to Part 1 of our 2-Part series on the importance of cooling tower inspections.

Q: Why should cooling towers be inspected by a firm independent from a cooling tower company?

A: Typically, routine inspections (if performed) are conducted by the cooling tower erector or manufacturer. Inspections by the same company that erected the tower can lead to a conflict of interest in the evaluation of the structure. Cooling tower inspections performed by an Engineering firm with qualified structural engineers and API certified inspectors provide a different, third-party perspective on the structural integrity and estimated remaining service life of the tower.

Q: What are one of the primary challenges to inspecting cooling towers?

A: The amount of time a cooling tower can be shut down to allow for an inspection is often limited and dependent on the facility’s operational constraints. Due to this, planning an efficient inspection procedure is crucial, and often difficult, to ensure all the critical areas of the structure have been inspected.

Q: Are there any unique safety challenges to inspecting cooling towers?

A: The inside of a cooling tower has minimal lighting and slippery surfaces due to the saturated wood and film that forms on the timber over time. In colder regions, visibility inside a cooling tower is limited from all the plume vapor circulating within a tower. Foot placement and navigating the internal structure of a cooling tower poses many risks while working at heights over water and requires a thorough safety plan for the inspection.

Cooling towers pose many safety risks for workers such as confined space entry, working at heights, working over water, and legionella bacteria (legionnaire’s disease) to name a few. Inspecting cooling towers that have experienced a partial collapse or localized failure of primary structural members also poses a great safety risk and requires structural analysis to determine if the remaining areas of the tower are stable and safe to enter.

When choosing a company to perform an evaluation on a cooling tower, the inspectors should be a neutral party, properly trained and qualified to work safely under these conditions.

About Brindley Engineering Brindley Engineering was founded with a vision to provide the highest level of service to clients in capital & maintenance projects, reliability initiatives, and construction solutions. We’ve developed a world-class, multidisciplinary team of engineers, technicians, and designers that share that vision.


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