The closed recirculating cooling water system evolved
from methods used for the cooling of early engine designs. In a closed
system, water circulates in a closed cycle and is subjected to alternate
cooling and heating without air contact. Heat, absorbed by the water
in the closed system, is normally transferred by a water-to-water exchanger
to the recirculating water of an open recirculating system, from which
the heat is lost to atmosphere (Figure
Closed recirculating cooling water systems are well suited to the cooling of gas
engines and compressors. Diesel engines in stationary and locomotive service normally use
radiator systems similar to the familiar automobile cooling system. Other closed
recirculating cooling applications include smelt spout cooling systems on Kraft recovery
boilers and lubricating oil and sample coolers in power plants. Closed systems are also
widely used in air conditioning chilled water systems to transfer the refrigerant cooling
to air washers, in which the air is chilled. In cold seasons, the same system can supply
heat to air washers. Closed water cooling systems also provide a reliable method of
industrial process temperature control.
ADVANTAGES OF CLOSED
Closed recirculating systems have many advantages. They
provide better control of temperatures in heat-producing equipment, and their small makeup
water requirements greatly simplify control of potential waterside problems. Makeup water
is needed only when leakage has occurred at pump packings or when water has been drained
to allow system repair. Little, if any, evaporation occurs. Therefore, high-quality water
can usually be used for makeup, and as a result, scale deposits are not a problem. The use
of high-quality water also minimizes the dangers of cracked cylinders, broken heads,
fouled exchangers, and other mechanical failures. Closed systems are also less susceptible
to biological fouling from slime and algae deposits than open systems.
Closed systems also reduce corrosion problems drastically,
because the recirculating water is not continuously saturated with oxygen, as in an open
system. The only points of possible oxygen entry are at the surface of the surge tank or
the hot well, the circulating pump packings, and the makeup water. With the small amount
of makeup water required, adequate treatment can virtually eliminate corrosion and the
accumulation of corrosion products.
Some closed systems, such as chilled water systems, operate
at relatively low temperatures and require very little makeup water. Because no
concentration of dissolved solids occurs, fairly hard makeup water may be used with little
danger of scale formation. However, in diesel and gas engines, the high temperature of the
jacket water significantly increases its tendency to deposit scale. Over a long period,
the addition of even small amounts of hard makeup water causes a gradual buildup of scale
in cylinders and cylinder heads. Where condensate is available, it is preferred for closed
system cooling water makeup. Where condensate is not available, zeolite softening should
be applied to the makeup water.
An increase in water temperature causes an increase in
corrosion. In a vented system, this tendency is reduced by the decreased solubility of
oxygen at higher temperatures. This is the basis of mechanical deaeration.
Corrosion rates at increasing water temperatures for two different
sets of conditions.
Curve A plots data from a completely closed system with no provision
for the venting of oxygen to atmosphere. Curve B shows data for a vented
system. At up to 170°F (77°C), the curves are essentially parallel.
Beyond 170°F (77°C), curve B drops off. This occurs because the lower
solubility of oxygen with increasing temperatures in a freely vented
system decreases the corrosion rate faster than the rise in temperature
increases it. However, in many closed systems, the dissolved oxygen
entering the system in the makeup water cannot be freely vented, resulting
in the release of oxygen at points of high heat transfer, which may
cause severe corrosion.
Untreated systems can suffer serious corrosion damage from oxygen
pitting, galvanic action, and crevice attack. Closed cooling systems that are shut down
periodically are subjected to water temperatures that may vary from ambient to 180°F
(82°C) or higher. During shutdown, oxygen can enter the water until its saturation limit
is reached. When the system is returned to high-temperature operation, oxygen solubility
drops and the released oxygen attacks metal surfaces(Figure
The metallurgy used in constructing modern engines,
compressors, and cooling systems includes cast iron, steel, copper, copper alloys, and
aluminum as well as solders. Nonmetallic components, such as natural or synthetic rubber,
asbestos, and carbon, are also used. If bimetallic couples are present, galvanic corrosion
The three most reliable corrosion inhibitors for closed
cooling water systems are chromate, molybdate, and nitrite materials. Generally, the
chromate or molybdate types have proven to be superior treatments. For mixed metallurgy
systems, the molybdate inhibitors provide the best corrosion protection.
Chromate treatments in the range of 500-1000 ppm as Cr4O2¯
are satisfactory unless bimetallic influences exist. When
such bimetallic couples as steel and copper are present, chromate treatment
levels should be increased to exceed 2000 ppm. Maximum inhibitor effectiveness
can be achieved if the pH of these systems is kept between 7.5 and 9.5.
In a closed system, it can be quite difficult to prevent
corrosion of aluminum and its alloys; the pH of the water must be maintained below 9.0.
Aluminum is amphoteric-it dissolves in both acid and base, and its corrosion rate
accelerates at pH levels higher than 9.0. The bimetallic couple that is most difficult to
cope with is that of copper and aluminum, for which chromate concentrations even higher
than 5000 ppm may not be adequate.
Where circulating pumps are equipped with certain
mechanical seals, such as graphite, chromate concentrations may not exceed 250 ppm. This
is due to the fact that water leaking past the seals evaporates and leaves a high
concentration of abrasive salts that can damage the seal.
Another problem is encountered when chromate inhibitors are
used in cooling systems serving compressors that handle sour gas. If sour gas leaks from
the power cylinder into the water circuit, significant chromate reduction will occur,
causing poor corrosion control and deposition of reduced chromate.
In very high heat transfer rate applications, such as
continuous caster mold cooling systems, chromate levels should be maintained at 100-150
ppm maximum. Under these extreme conditions, chromate can accumulate at the grain
boundaries on the mold, causing enough insulation to create equipment reliability
The toxicity of high-chromate concentrations may restrict
their use, particularly when a system must be drained frequently. Current legislation has
significantly reduced the allowable discharge limits and the reportable quantity for the
spill of chromate-based products. Depending on the type of closed system and the various
factors of State/Federal laws limiting the use of chromate, a nonchromate alternative may
Molybdate treatments provide effective corrosion protection
and an environmentally acceptable alternative to chromate inhibitors. Nitrite-
molybdate-azole blends inhibit corrosion in steel, copper, aluminum, and mixed-metallurgy
systems. Molybdates are thermally stable and can provide excellent corrosion protection in
both soft and hard water. System pH is normally controlled between 7.0 and 9.0.
Recommended treatment control limits are 200-300 ppm molybdate as MoO42¯.
Molybdate inhibitors should not be used with calcium levels greater than 500 ppm.
Nitrite is another widely accepted nonchromate closed
cooling water inhibitor. Nitrite concentra-tions in the range of 600-1200 ppm as NO2-
will suitably inhibit iron and steel corrosion when the pH is maintained above 7.0.
Systems containing steel and copper couples require treatment levels in the 5000-7000 ppm
range. If aluminum is also present, the corrosion problem is intensified, and a treatment
level of 10,000 ppm may be required. In all cases, the pH of the circulating water should
be maintained in the alkaline range, but below 9.0 when aluminum is present. When high
nitrite levels are applied, acid feed may be required for pH control.
One drawback to nitrite treatments is the fact that
nitrites are oxidized by microorganisms. This can lead to low inhibitor levels and
biological fouling. The feed of nonoxidizing antimicrobial may be necessary to control
nitrite reversion and biological fouling.
Product performance data
developed in laboratory studies simulating a mixed-metallurgy closed cooling system
identified steel and Admiralty corrosion rates for three closed system inhibitors at
increasing treatment levels. As shown, the molybdate-based treatment provides the best
overall steel and Admiralty protection. To achieve similar inhibition with chromate,
higher treatment concentrations are required. Nitrite-based treatment also provides
effective steel protection, with results comparable to those obtained with molybdate;
however, acceptable Admiralty corrosion inhibition is not achieved.
Closed systems often require the addition of a suitable
antifreeze. Nonchromate inhibitors are compatible with typical antifreeze compounds.
Chromates may be used with alcohol antifreeze, but the pH of the circulating water should
be maintained above 7.0 to prevent chromate reduction. Because glycol antifreezes are not
compatible with chromate-based treatments, nonchromate inhibitors should be used.
Molybdate treatments should not be used with brine-type antifreezes.
In closed systems that continuously run at temperatures below 32°F
(0°C), a closed brine system is often employed. The American Society
of Refrigeration Engineers has established chromate limits in brine
treatments. Calcium brines are limited to 1250 ppm chromate, and sodium
brines are limited to 2500 ppm chromate. The pH should be 7.0-8.5 with
caustic adjustment only. Some success has also been recorded with nitrite-based
treatment of closed brine systems at treatment levels of about 2000