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Special Report | December 2015

Cool Currents

Many government regulations introduced for cheking pollution and plume abatement are giving the required thrust to the industry.

Cooling towers, which reject heat from warm water emerging from industrial processes using either air venting or evaporation, have never been so popular in developing countries. The reason: Till recently, pollution has never been considered a legitimate issue by some and thought avoidable when it proved to be cost-intensive to fight it.

However, growing commitment for fighting environmental degradation is providing new thrust to demand for cooling towers, both in developing as well as developed nations. Many countries are now making it mandatory for the polluting industries to ensure zero discharge into the environment, countering the earlier perception of giving importance to avoiding additional costs as part of encouraging industrial growth.

The commitment
Reversing its earlier stand to go slow on environmental initiatives involving additional costs, in October 2015, India announced its commitment for the upcoming COP21 global climate talks in Paris in November-end, pledging to improve the carbon emissions intensity of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 33-35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This will bring India at par with its carbon-intensive neighbour, China, in emission intensity levels. But China has committed to reduce the intensity of its GDP by 60-65 per cent during the same period.

However, the Indian government has started initiatives in this direction much ahead of this announcement, which pledged to hike the share of renewable sources in power generation to 40 per cent from 30 per cent, at present. In May 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) proposed the first-ever federal standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and mercury and stringent water consumption rules, making it necessary for coal-fired power plants to convert their once-through cooling system-based plants into cooling towers.

The air pollution control rule proposes to require the nation´s fleet of plants larger than 500 MW to meet SO2 limits of 200 milligrams per normal cubic meter (mg/Nm3), and NOx limits of 300 mg/Nm3. New plants commissioned after 2017 will be required to have flue gas desulfurization to cut SO2 emissions to 100 mg/Nm3, and they would need to meet NOx norms of 100 mg/Nm3.

According to the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based public interest research and advocacy group, the limits would imply cuts in SO2 emissions of 80% for existing plants and about 15% in NOx emissions.

Water conservation
And, as stringently, the rule calls for water consumption limits. Once-through cooling system-based plants would need to convert to cooling towers and cut water draw to 4 m3/MWh from the current average of around 150 m3/MWh. ´New plants would need to cut water use to 2.5 m3/MWh, which is equal to the average water use of Chinese plants,´ says CSE. ´A global best cooling tower-based plant has water consumption as low at 1.6m3/MWh.´

The move is expected to result in construction of cooling towers to remove heat from the discharged water - estimated to cost around Rs 200 crore per plant. All these existing power plants, mostly owned by public sector utilities, have been operating under ´once-through cooling (OTC) technology´ which reduces heat by just 2-3 degrees and release it into the atmosphere.

In September 2015, the Centre has asked the Uttar Pradesh government to issue notices to119 sugar mills barring them from discharging waste water into Ganga, an revered river for Hindus. According to the state Ground Water Department´s data for last year, groundwater levels in 820 development blocks were ´diminishing´. Of these 820 blocks, 111 are identified as ´over-exploited´, 68 ´critical´ and 82 in ´semi-critical´ state.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) directed sugar mills to utilise waste water for irrigation, instead of disposing it off into the river. As the water discharged by mills is warm, the mills have also been asked to install cooling towers, which will also serve as waste water treatment units.

The crushing season lasts from November to April. Bijnor district cane officer OP Singh said that though the discharged water is not harmful to the ground per se, they can pollute the river as this water contains zinc, copper, sulphur, iron, nitrogen and phosphorous.

ZLD Technology
Zero liquid discharge (ZLD) industrial applications currently receive a great deal of attention. This is the most advanced level of wastewater treatment and reuse technology. Certainly for the most water-stressed and water polluted regions of the world, industrial manufacturers and utilities have made strong regulatory pushes for increased ZLD adoption like regions of India where all industrial manufacturers with wastewater discharge to river systems have been required to adopt ZLD technology. High recovery water treatment technologies have many other application spaces and value propositions and are expected to see high demand in the coming years. They occur across multiple geographies and industry segments.

India is the market where strict industrial water regulation had been implemented to mitigate serious river pollution issues and address water scarcity in many regions of the country. According to data, only 30 per cent of wastewater generated in India is treated in any way, including wastewater from municipal, commercial and industrial sources. For the industrial sector, the Indian government has promoted ZLD and near ZLD as wastewater mandates for the largest wastewater generators, which a 2013 International Water Management Institute report identified as the thermal power, steel and petrochemical industries. Transitioning these large water users and wastewater generators toward reuse and ZLD can reduce the consumption of freshwater and the volume of wastewater generated, but it will take time and new solutions.

Lack of water reserves in certain parts of the world, has created the need to develop closed water circuit cooling towers. They consume far less amounts of water in comparison to open circuit towers, albeit at a high installation and maintenance cost.

Global market
Transparency Market Research (TMR) in its study on global cooling towers market, identified India as one of the top locations with heavy demand for cooling towers in the coming five years. ´The U.S., China, and India are expected to be the top locations that show a heavy demand for cooling towers. India, China, and South Korea are showing a large demand specifically for evaporative cooling towers,´ it said.

The global cooling towers market is currently estimated by TMR to grow at a CAGR of 4.7% from 2014 to 2020. This means the market that was worth US$2.31 billion in 2013, is expected to reach an overall worth of US$3.17 billion by the end of 2020. Although the market is not as evenly distributed as global players would have liked, there is still plenty of scope for many to succeed on a regional basis. The world is progressing at a blindingly fast pace and the energy sector needs to meet the incredible demand created by it. Therefore, the outlook for the global cooling towers market is largely positive.

Most of the regions are dominated by key players from around the world. This includes EVAPCO-BLCT Dry Cooling, Inc, FANS, a.s., Liang Chi Industry Company, Hamon Group (Esindus S.A.), SPIG S.p.A., Paharpur Cooling Towers Ltd., and SPX Corporation. Indian cooling tower manufacturer, Paharpur Cooling Towers Ltd, has found place in the top 10 cooling tower manufacturers in the world.

Plume Abatement
The plume created in industrial environments is largely responsible for causing health disorders such as Legionnaires´ disease, which has killed a few people in New York city recently. With this issue in view, developers have created the hybrid cooling tower, which drastically reduces plume and help contain the ill effects caused by it. More and more industries are opting for hybrid cooling towers.

´Due to these features, hybrid towers have seen wide adoption off late, and are expected to drive the cooling towers market during the next five years,´ TMR said in the report.

The global cooling towers market is also witnessing heavy aid from government bodies towards the reduction of plume. Many regulatory bodies around the world are creating restrictions that let industries approach better plume abatement methods, while government grants help them manage the same. The exceptions to this scenario are the cooling towers markets in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific, where industries still prefer the use of open circuit evaporation towers as they offer better thermal efficiency than other types.

Cooling Towers - Classification
Cooling towers are classified on the basis of their heat transfer method as evaporative/wet, dry cooling towers, and hybrid. Evaporative heat transfer method works on a principle analogous to perspiration. The circulating warm water is first distributed on a fill pack and then cooled by blown air. During this process, the small amount of water is evaporated, whereas the remaining water is collected at the base of the cooling tower. This water is re-circulated in the system for cooling purposes. The dry cooling method uses the natural air present in the atmosphere, instead of water, for cooling the circulating water. Dry cooling towers do not require mid-heat exchanger as required in closed-circuit cooling towers. This cooling method is similar to the function of a radiator that uses the air in the atmosphere for cooling purposes. Due to these features, dry cooling tower involves lesser maintenance and has a higher average life expectancy.

Hybrid cooling towers have advantages and disadvantages of both dry and wet cooling towers. Hybrid cooling systems iorporates both the evaporative and dry cooling units at the end-point of the closed or open circuit cooling towers. This enables reduction in the visible plume formed during the evaporative cooling method. Additionally, hybrid cooling towers can save approximately over 50 per cent of water as compared to the wet cooling towers.

Global Cooling Towers Market Segments
Cooling Towers Market, by Type

  • Open Cooling Towers
  • Closed Circuit Cooling Towers

Global Cooling Towers Market, By Heat Exchange Method

  • Evaporative
  • Dry Cooling Towers
  • Plume Abatement (Hybrid)

Global Cooling Towers Market, By Application

  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Generation Utilities
  • Manufacturing Industry
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