My first intimate encounter with a cooling tower was in 2009. The two cooling towers of Haifa oil refineries ended their service in 2006, after about 70 years in operation. It was a unique opportunity to visit the massive 80 meters high 66 meters wide structure, as part of a project preparing tutorials for the plant.
The experience was astonishing.
A year before, residents in surrounding towns voted in a survey in favor of keeping the cooling towers – as they became a symbolic element in Haifa Bay area. It was then decided to turn the western cooling tower into a visitor center. In order to render the structure safe for visitors, a colossal project to rehabilitate the decaying concrete structure took place in 2011 – 2012. I visited the site several times for documentation. The result is the video above, and some excerpts from the photo gallery.
First step was to remove the inner wood fill that was used as the heat exchange surfaces. It was a magnificent part of the tower, but unfortunately the visitor center design did not leave a place for even a part of it. Luckily, the eastern cooling tower remains intact.
Unlike other cooling towers, the ones in Haifa have a significantly narrow “neck” which made the access extremely challenging. A unique system of moving platforms was designed and installed, enabling workers to reach 100% of the structure inner and outer concrete surfaces.
As the refinery is near the sea, rebars were corroding causing concrete elements to detach and fall. Construction workers have done an amazing work rehabilitating the fragile concrete structure by taking care of the rebars in exposed areas and applying new concrete.
An added value to the awkward position and hard work was the amazing view and unique opportunity to work on such a structure. Here’s a view to the eastern cooling tower
And a peep from the top inside
New concrete surfaces for visitor center pavilions, on top of the water pool.
Most of the rehabilitation project documentation was done during the summer of 2012. I haven’t published the material as I was waiting to include footage of the completed visitor center. 3 years later, in summer 2015, I got the chance to visit the new visitor center, seen in the video – which took me almost a year to edit (on and off…).