Biofouling control of industrial seawater cooling towers

  • Mohammed Al-Bloushi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The use of seawater in cooling towers for industrial applications has much merit in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries due to the scarcity and availability of fresh water. Seawater make-up in cooling towers is deemed the most feasible because of its unlimited supply in coastal areas. Such latent-heat removal with seawater in cooling towers is several folds more efficient than sensible heat extraction via heat exchangers. Operational challenges such as scaling, corrosion, and biofouling are a major challenge in conventional cooling towers, where the latter is also a major issue in seawater cooling towers. Biofouling can significantly hamper the efficiency of cooling towers. The most popular methods used in cooling treatment to control biofouling are disinfection by chlorination. However, the disadvantages of chlorination are formation of harmful disinfection byproducts in the presence of high organic loading and safety concerns in the storage of chlorine gas. In this study, the research focuses on biofouling control in seawater cooling towers by investigating two different approaches. The first strategy addresses the use of alternative oxidants (i.e. ozone micro-bubbles and chlorine dioxide) in treatment of cooling towers. The second strategy investigates removing nutrients in seawater using granular activated carbon filter column and ultrafiltration to prevent the growth of microorganisms. Laboratory bench-scale tests in terms of temperature, cycle of concentration, dosage, etc. indicated that, at lower oxidant dosages (total residual oxidant (TRO) equivalent = 0.1 mg/l Cl2), chlorine dioxide had a better disinfection effect than chlorine and ozone. The performance of oxidizing biocides at pilot scale, operating at assorted conditions, showed that for the disinfectants tested, ozone could remove 95 % bioactivity of total number of bacteria and algae followed by chlorine dioxide at 85%, while conventional chlorine dosing only gave 60% reduction in bioactivities. Test results of GAC bio-filter showed that around 70 % removal of total organic carbon in the seawater feed was achieved and was effective in keeping the microbial growth to a minimum. The measured results from this study enable designers of seawater cooling towers to manage the biofouling problems when such cooling towers are extrapolated to a pilot scale.
Date of AwardNov 2017
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorTorOve Leiknes (Supervisor)


  • Cooling Tower
  • Oxidants
  • Biofouling
  • Organic carbon
  • GAC

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