Effectively Design Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchangers

Effectively Design Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchangers

Thermal design of shell-and-tube heat exchangers (STHEs) is done by sophisticated computer software. However, a good understanding of the underlying principles of exchanger design is needed to use this software effectively. This article explains the basics of exchanger thermal design, covering such topics as: STHE components; classification of STHEs according to construction and according to service; data needed for thermal design; tubeside design; shellside design, including tube layout, baffling, and shellside pressure drop; and mean temperature difference. The basic equations for tubeside and shellside heat transfer and pressure drop are wellknown; here we focus on the application of these correlations for the optimum design of heat exchangers. A followup article on advanced topics in shell-and-tube heat exchanger design, such as allocation of shellside and tubeside fluids, use of multiple shells, overdesign, and fouling, is scheduled to appear in the next issue.

Components of STHEs

It is essential for the designer to have a good working knowledge of the mechanical features of STHEs and how they influence thermal design. The principal components of an STHE are:

  • shell;
  • shell cover;
  • tubes;
  • channel;
  • channel cover;
  • tubesheet;
  • baffles; and
  • nozzles.

Other components include tie-rods and spacers, pass  artition plates, impingement plate, longitudinal baffle,  sealing strips, supports, and  foundation. The  Standards of the Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association (TEMA) (1) describe these various components in detail.

An STHE is divided into three parts: the front head,  the shell, and the rear head. Figure 1 illustrates the TEMA nomenclature for the various construction possibilities. Exchangers are described by the letter codes for the three sections — for example, a BFL exchanger has a bonnet cover, a two-pass shell with  a longitudinal baffle, and a  fixed-tubesheet rear head.

Classification based on construction

Fixed tubesheet. A fixed-tubesheet heat exchanger  (Figure 2) has straight tubes that are secured at both ends to tubesheets welded  to the shell. The  construction may have  removable channel covers (e.g., AEL), bonnet-type channel covers (e.g., BEM),  or integral tubesheets (e.g., NEN). The principal advantage of the fixed tubesheet construction  is its low cost because of its simple construction. In fact, the  fixed tubesheet is the least expensive construction type, as long as no expansion joint is required.