When you think of a cooling system used in the process industries, the first image that likely comes to mind is a cluster of massive cooling towers perched atop a refinery or chemical plant. But Carl Pendola, a plant engineer at Penco Equipment Inc., Pearland, Texas, knows some applications in the process industries require more compact cooling systems. A 35-year veteran in servicing the chemical, gas and oil processing industries, Pendola has been involved with equipment design and selection for diverse applications, with specialties in heat transfer and mixing.

Many large processing plants have remote satellite facilities, pilot plants or research operations that require smaller, independent cooling packages that could be well served by a combination of a compact, factory-assembled cooling tower with a small-footprint heat exchanger.

A recent example is a custom, compact cooling system that Pendola helped commission. The application was a mud tank designed by NRG Manufacturing, Tomball, Texas, for research and development of down-hole drilling tools manufactured by a major oil services company. NRG is a manufacturer of hydraulic fracturing equipment, including custom pressure vessels, mud tanks and well-stimulation solutions.

Most NRG mud products are mobile systems designed to mechanically remove destructive solids and sediment from drilling mud. Removing the solids improves fluid retention, reduces wear on equipment, allows more efficient mud agitation, eases cleanout maintenance and helps ensure a safer work environment.

However, the newly designed mud system for testing down-hole tools had to accommodate a particularly abrasive mud and be able to run it through the tools for erosion testing and other wear factors.

“Because some drilling fluids are very abrasive, heat can build quickly, and controlling mud temperature becomes an issue,” says Chris Post, director of engineering and projects for pressure vessels and drilling systems at NRG. For this reason, it is important to incorporate a cooling system that reduces and controls the temperature.

Exchanger-Tower  Cooling System Cools Fracking Mud Tools

Post and Pendola worked together to design the tool-cooling system, which was composed of a plate-type heat exchanger manufactured by Tranter, based in Wichita Falls, Texas, and a compact 265-ton cooling tower from Delta Cooling Towers, Rockaway, N.J.

For the cooling system, the plate-type heat exchanger was capable of performing without taking up much space. The compact cooling tower was selected for a number of reasons, including available sizes and its engineered high-density polyethylene (HDPE) construction. Minimal maintenance requirements made the line of seamless, factory-assembled cooling towers preferable over galvanized sheet metal models for this application. The engineered plastic is relatively impervious to corrosion from the environment, including ozone and the airborne contaminants that may be expelled from plants anywhere near the cooling tower installation. In addition, the Houston-area location has a fairly damp climate, which can lead to corrosion that will damage a galvanized cooling tower.

The compact cooling tower design simplified installation of the factory-assembled cooling tower, according to Post. “The crew that I had install the cooling tower were not experienced cooling tower hands,” he says. “But they were able to get the tower assembled rather easily.”

According to Pendola, the plate-and-frame heat exchangers are a “natural fit” for smaller plastic cooling tower models, which complement the compact footprint that is important to many applications. The 265-ton cooling tower is energy efficient, using only six fan horsepower to produce the 265 cooling tons.

 The modular cooling towers can help smaller industrial applications use a relatively small cooling tower when process demands are for somewhat limited cooling capacity. Should the cooling load increase, cooling tower modules can be added to the platform to boost cooling capacity. 

To learn more about cooling towers from Delta Cooling Towers Inc., Rockaway, N.J., call 800-289-3358 or visit www.deltacooling.com. To learn more about plate-and-frame heat exchangers from Tranter, Wichita Falls, Texas, call 800-414-6908 or visit www.tranter.com. To learn more about fracturing equipment from NRG Manufacturing, Tomball, Texas, call 888-689-5830 or visit  www.nrgm.com.