Paper 44a

BRAZED ALUMINUM PLATE FIN HEAT EXCHANGERS – CONSTRUCTION, USES, AND ADVANTAGES IN CRYOGENIC REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS

Dan Markussen Principal Sales Engineer Chart Industries

Larry Lewis CEO SME Associates, Inc.

Prepared for Presentation at the 2005 AIChE Spring National Meeting 17th Annual Ethylene Producers’ Conference Atlanta, GA, April 10-14, 2005

Session TA011 Ethylene Plant Technology – Refrigeration Systems April 13, 2005

AIChE shall not be responsible for statements or opinions contained in papers or printed in its publications.

BRAZED ALUMINUM PLATE FIN HEAT EXCHANGERS – CONSTRUCTION, USES, AND ADVANTAGES IN CRYOGENIC REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS Dan Markussen, Chart Industries and Larry Lewis, SME Associates Abstract This paper will provide an overview of the components of a brazed aluminum heat exchanger (BAHX) and how Chart Industries designs, manufacturers, and tests them. An overview is provided of the range of uses for BAHX in cryogenic process refrigeration systems with an emphasis on debottlenecking ethylene production facilities by optimizing their refrigeration systems. Discussion is presented on the uses of BAHX and the advantages that they provide the designer of refrigeration systems and the owners of cryogenic refining facilities. Introduction The continued emphasis on increasing plant efficiency driven by the increased costs of energy and feedstocks have led plant designers and owners to demand more from their heat exchangers. The required gains in efficiency and throughput targeted by a debottlenecking project can be achieved through the use of the highly efficient and flexible design of brazed aluminum heat exchangers, (BAHX.) Over the past several decades, the use of BAHX has become quite prevalent in cryogenic refrigeration systems. Applications such as petrochemical processing, industrial gas processing, production of LNG and other hydrocarbon processing covers the general spectrum in which BAHX are commonly used. Heat Exchanger Design and Construction Today’s heat exchangers for typical industrial processing applications generally fall under two broad categories: • Tubular type Heat Exchangers • Plate Type Heat Exchangers Brazed Aluminum Heat Exchangers (Compact Heat Exchangers) Shell-and-tube tubular type heat exchangers remain the most widely used units for heat transfer in process applications. For this type of heat exchanger, tubes are mechanically attached to tube sheets, which are enclosed inside a shell with ports for inlet and outlet fluid or gas. Shell-and-tube exchangers are versatile and robust, servicing applications requiring processing of dirty, corrosive fluids, where thermal performance and compactness are not important considerations. Historically, shell-and-tube exchangers have proven to be cost effective when the application contains warm, corrosive or dirty process fluids. While this arrangement offered serviceable performance over time, issues of durability, limited application range and high horsepower requirements tended to increase operating costs and limit system reliability. Brazed aluminum plate fin heat exchangers, a specialty subset of Compact Plate Heat Exchangers, have become the most widely used heat exchanger in the cryogenic industry.

They offer the benefits of a compact design that is typically one-fifth the size of comparable carbon or stainless steel shell and tube heat exchanger and will weigh approximately 10 percent of the weight. BAHX smaller size is attributable to the high density of the heat transfer fins and the thermal conductivity of the aluminum material. Typical fin heights range from 0.200 to 0.380” and vary from 8 fins per inch to 25 fins per inch. Most of the surface is secondary surface with the parting sheet being the primary surface. The thermal conductivity of aluminum is very high resulting in fin efficiencies that are typically more than 80 percent. The heat transfer fin configuration is designed to create an optimum balance between pressure drop and heat transfer of the stream. Other benefits inherent in the aluminum plate fin design include close temperature approaches and a unique ability to configure multiple streams. The multiple streams can be different types of fluids, such as gas-to-gas, gas-to-liquid, two phase or any combination, with each stream balanced and optimized both thermally and hydraulically. Whereas a typical shell and tube heat exchanger is limited to two streams, brazed aluminum heat exchangers can be designed and configured in parallel or in series to create multi stream capabilities with up to 15 different streams. Figure 1 shows the major components of a typical brazed aluminum fin heat exchanger. Brazed aluminum heat exchangers are built by stacking layers of corrugated fins separated by parting sheets and sealed along the edges with side bars.

Figure 1 The matrix assembly is brazed in a large vacuum furnace to form an integral, rigid heat exchanger block. Exchanger block sizes can be in excess of 4’W x 5’D x 25’H. Headers and supports are welded onto the brazed matrix to complete the unit.

. Division I code stamp. that is joining. or other recognized international codes are normally applied. vacuum environment. bars and parting sheets at high temperature in a clean. herringbone and serrated] accommodate different thermal and hydraulic process requirements enabling the exchanger to be custom designed for an infinite number of processes.A wide range of fin patterns [plain. Codes The design. Historically. Each layer is bound by bars and provided with inlet and outlet distributors. ASME Section VIII. due to their inherently high surface area compactness. perforated. and adhere to strict quality control procedures. possess superior heat transfer capabilities and can be cost effective for non-corrosive gases and liquids as compared with traditional shell-andtube exchangers. including: ! ! ! ! Hydrostatic and pneumatic proof testing Performance flow testing External and vacuum helium leak detection Dye penetrant and radiographic testing Ideally. PED.3 Piping Code. (fins). a total commitment to quality and reliability should be manifested through full accreditation to EN ISO9001. manufacturing and testing of brazed aluminum plate-fin heat exchangers are governed by recognized international codes that apply to pressure vessels. The core matrix is produced by vacuum brazing. Supplier Considerations Consideration should be given only to exchangers that meet one of the recognized international design codes. and flat parting sheets. Brazed aluminum exchangers. The heat exchanger consists of a core block constructed of alternating layers of corrugated sheets. Associated piping is normally designed and manufactured in accordance with the ASME B31. construction. this type of heat exchanger has been used in cryogenic applications where small approach temperatures are important. the fins. (See Figure 2) Figure 2 Manufacturing Brazed aluminum heat exchangers are manufactured as an all brazed and welded pressure vessel with no mechanical joints.

A variation of the brazed aluminum fin (BAHX) heat exchanger is the Core-In-Kettle® Heat Exchanger. application matching heat exchanger performance lies in the ability to match the application to the appropriate technology as specifically as possible. shell-and-tube heat exchangers are versatile. construction. close temperature approaches. This approach consists of an aluminum plate fin heat exchanger assembled inside of a vessel. quality and performance factors. Core-in-Kettle designs are limited to clean fluids typical of hydrocarbon processing. all-around products intended for warm. In a refinement scenario. Conversely. picking the right heat exchanger for the job is largely a process-driven task. compactness and low weight are important plant considerations. For petrochemical applications that produce ethylene.Finally. brazed aluminum exchangers then become an integral part of the heat transfer processing chain. Oftentimes. As stated earlier. effective operation over the long term. More information regarding ALPEMA may be obtained from www. brazed aluminum heat exchangers are ideal for cold/cryogenic. As the product becomes more refined and the plant becomes colder. ALPEMA standards provide consistent quality and conformance guidelines for the design and manufacture of brazed aluminum exchangers. hydrogen and helium liquefaction and recovery. Key applications include industrial gas production. refinery and petrochemical processing. and offshore platform or FPSO processing. Core-in-Kettle. shell-and-tube and run back condensers are all suitable options. natural gas processing.org Applications In addition to design. shell-and-tube exchangers are a natural fit for plant locations where warm conditions exist at the front end. natural gas processing and liquefaction. . corrosive or dirty applications where thermal performance is not highly valued.alpema. The aluminum plate fin heat exchanger assembly replaces the traditional tube bundle found in shell and tube kettle exchangers and other heat exchanger designs. (see Figure 3) Correct decisions will help to ensure low-cost. clean process streams where thermal performance. customers and/or users of brazed aluminum exchangers should only consider suppliers that conform to the standards of ALPEMA (Brazed Aluminum PlateFin Heat Exchanger Manufacturers’ Association).

. a smaller or more fundamental application may benefit from an equally utilitarian shell-and-tube heat exchanger or exchanger system.Figure 3 Cost is another consideration. In reality. Mercury Contamination Longtime fears about mercury’s corrosive effects on aluminum have fueled some reluctance to embrace brazed aluminum technology. mercury will only react with certain alloys of aluminum and then only when liquid mercury is allowed to exist in contact with the heat exchanger and there is water present. the energy-efficient benefits of brazed aluminum heat exchangers may not dictate its use in certain applications. While brazed aluminum offers many benefits over its tubular counterparts. Moreover. as the availability and affordability of energy used to operate plants varies globally.

Chart’s proprietary mercury-tolerant designs allow corrosive mercury to be present in the aluminum exchanger without causing the exchanger to fail. Brazed aluminum construction eliminates mechanical joints and large diameter flanges that could leak. The Core-in-Kettle’s smaller vessel design creates cost savings though lower liquid inventory. And. equipment from Chart Industries can be designed to be mercury tolerant. Benefits of The Core-In Kettle Heat Exchanger Technology Core-in-Kettle designs can possess up to ten times more heat transfer surface than traditional tube designs. Operators may also use special shutdown procedures to restrict moisture and maintain temperatures below 100° C. providing numerous operational and performance advantages: Close temperature approaches can be accommodated generally to 1 degree C with resultant savings in power and operating costs. savings in foundation and support costs as Core-in-Kettle designs are typically one-fifth the weight of tube and shell designs. In addition to mercury removal systems. reduction in insulation. smaller foot-print and associated space costs.Mercury removal systems upstream of the exchanger are commonly installed so that brazed aluminum plate-fin heat exchangers may be used with streams containing mercury. (See Figure 4) Figure 4 .

(See Figure 5) Figure 5 Run Back Condensers Run Back Condensers are high efficiency exchangers for the partial condensation of a range of fluids. CO2 purification. C4 splitter heat pumps. Their sophisticated design accommodates heat and mass transfer effects while avoiding flooding.for lowering initial and operating costs.ideal . The most common applications include C2 splitter condensers. a brazed aluminum core is immersed in a bath of refrigerant and extremely high UA/in3 are achieved due to the refrigerant path open flow area being quite large. A special fin design is the heart of the refluxing stream delivering the optimum combination of free-flow area and hydraulic mean diameter. . In a Core-in Kettle exchanger. and refrigeration condensers and evaporators.Core-In Kettle Applications Core-in-Kettle heat exchangers are . Other applications include Helium recovery from natural gas. (See Figure 6) Figure 6 Runback condensers are used extensively in ethylene recovery. condensing argon. C3 splitter heat pumps. hydrogen purification. and ammonia purge gas separation. The reduced approach temperatures lower refrigerant compression horsepower requirements and save money.

Typically used in the coldest part of an ethylene plant. it is usually much more practical and economical to package the hydrogen purification system in a cold box. and cryogenic control valves. the elimination of several tower trays. two process vessels. with thingauged steel panel walls.Benefits of Run Back Condensers include liquid runback to the tower which eliminates pumps. The compactness and ease of insulation of cryogenic process equipment makes cold boxes ideal for use in ethylene plants. A cold box can typically contain and support one or more BAHXs. (See Figure 7). Liquid level control lines. knock out drums. and thermocouples with explosion proof junction boxes can also be included in the design and scope of supply in order to assist plant operators with monitoring plant performance. Although it is possible to mechanically insulate these components and its piping system.in terms of BAHXs . a cold box is usually supplied to perform the hydrogen purification requirements. flow meters. knock out drums. and associated interconnecting piping. Cold Boxes A cold box . Cold boxes are typically filled with perlite insulation and provided with nitrogen purging to keep the interior components cold and safe.pipe anchor points remain at the heat exchangers and vessels. Hydrogen purification typically is performed at temperatures well below -200°F and requires the use of two or more brazed aluminum exchangers. Figure 7 .is a steel structure enclosed. The piping penetrations through the box are typically free floating and insulated . process vessels. and by shifting the refrigeration requirement for the tower to a warmer level – reducing tower cost and improving efficiency. Cold boxes can employ the use of specially designed control valves that allow access to the valve stems and the valve internals from the outside of the box.

5 psia. excluding utility HP. brazed aluminum exchangers offer the advantage of pinch technology optimizing the refrigeration systems by tight approach temperatures and reducing refrigeration horsepower. Figure 8 . As an example of the advantages of tighter approach temperature on refrigeration horsepower. Figure 8 shows a cascade refrigeration system utilizing tubular exchangers with 10 F approach temperatures. Since brazed aluminum exchangers can accommodate as many as 15 streams.Example of Heat Exchangers and Ethylene Extraction In ethylene plants.484 BTU refrigeration/BTU power. complex refrigeration schemes can be accomplished in services such as the ethylene recovery/purification train and the H2 purification unit. we offer an example of a 12 MM BTU/hr Ethylene condenser (load) operating at –146. A simple cycle with 2 propylene refrigeration loops and one ethylene refrigeration loop was selected for the example.730 HP. The tubular exchanger example requires 9. This equates to a Coefficient of Performance (COP) of 0.3 F @ 19.

The BAHX exchangers required only 8179 HP with a COP of 0. Composite cooling curves of both systems are shown in Figure 10 and Figure 11). Reducing the approach temperatures from 10 F to 3 F resulted in a 16% compression HP Reduction.567. Figure 10 .Figure 9 The same 12 MM BTU/hr Ethylene condenser load and cascade refrigeration system as shown in Figure 9 was then simulated with BAHX exchangers achieving a 3 F approach temperature.

Conclusion By reducing approach temperatures and by taking advantage of complex refrigeration circuitry available with brazed aluminum and other compact exchangers.Figure 11 Further power reductions can be achieved by economizing the refrigeration loop and by increasing the number of loops. plants such as ethylene purification units can reduce refrigeration horsepower or debottleneck existing systems without adding compression. .

When a leak has been detected. What aluminum alloys are used and what determines their selection? a. and thermal fatigue are the most common. each stream is pressurized. usually at an extra expense. The following issues are just a few that perhaps this paper has not covered or needs to be reiterated due to them often being addressed in industry. What are the temperature and pressure limits of BAHX? a. Internal leak testing is performed by pressurizing each stream individually and monitoring small nozzle valves on the unpressurized streams using soap film solution. A BAHX is first structurally tested. Are the exchangers repairable if a leak is detected after the exchanger has been put in service? a.Sidebar FAQs Although the use of brazed aluminum heat exchangers is fairly wide spread and well accepted as practical use in cryogenic processing industries. Leak testing is performed after the structural test has been successfully performed. However. How are BAHXs tested? a. 1.1-time design pressure. practically speaking. to 1. and code limitations dictate the type of alloy used. Exchangers are repairable . Economics. Charts capability exceeds 2000 psig. The unit remains pressurized for 5-10 minutes. Leaks develop from a number of sources . members of ALPEMA (Aluminum Plate fin heat Exchanger Manufacturer’s Association) are capable of pressures from full vacuum to 1400 psi. Temperature and pressure limits vary from supplier to supplier. Most manufacturers are capable of exceeding this pressure limit but the size of the exchanger and to what extent varies greatly between the different suppliers. availability. External leak testing is performed using soap solution on the exchanger external joints. there remain many questions that are often unknown to the casual user of BAHX due to their special design and manufacturing process. Generally speaking.to what extent depends on the type of leak and where it is located. Pneumatic test methods can be used with the pressure level being adjusted to 1. For hydrostatic test methods. b. Helium vacuum leak testing may also be used to validate the leak tightness of an exchanger. 2. a manufacturer of BAHX or qualified field repair company specializing in BAHX repairs should be called to consult and possible perform the repair. Temperature limits are dictated by ASME code and range from -450°F to 400°F.3 times the design pressure per the requirements of ASME. with the other streams at zero pressure. b. 3. 4. c. corrosion.freeze failure. it is not desirable to exceed 150°F. 3003 alloy is used in the core block (consisting of parting . however generally most of the world leaders in the production of BAHX. especially at elevated pressure (in excess of 200 psi). Repairs can include welding shut the leak or plugging of the passage that is leaking.

www. Commissioning requirements. 5. Consult with the supplier’s installation and operating manual. Restrictions can be removed but can be difficult at times to eliminate. . Type of stainless steel to aluminum coupling preferred? a. Contact a BAHX supplier.com).chart-ind. 9. There are various considerations required for start-up and shutdown which are covered in the ALPEMA standards. What are the storage conditions? a. Damage in storage or shipping can be detected if pressure has been reduced or eliminated from the nitrogen blanket 10. 6061 alloy is usually the alloy of choice for flanged connections. Due to the nature of the internal construction of BAHXs it is recommended that filtration almost always be employed. Stream inlet and outlet temperatures and pressures are needed.sheets. a RFWN flange is often used. The ALPEMA suppliers will perform thermal expansion/contraction mechanical calculations in order to provide adequate piping strength.chartind. Usually the BAHX supplier has experience with each of the suppliers and is capable of making a qualified recommendation as to which supplier(s) are adequate. side/end bars. Visit Chart’s web site for a PDF of the latest version of the ALPEMA standards (www. Installation concerns? Piping stress on nozzles? a. BAHX’s can be shipped with a nitrogen blanket and gages with valves to monitor the pressure. as are either the physical properties at the inlet/outlet or the stream chemical composition. See the ALPEMA standards . Consult with the ALPEMA specifications for the options of eliminating blockages (back puffing and solvent washing are most typical). start up and cool down rates a. dry environment away from equipment that could potentially damage the exchanger. Usually the supplier will have specified methods of lifting and installing the exchanger. When is upstream filtration required? Can blockages be removed? a. For non-mechanical connections there are a variety of suppliers of stainless to aluminum transition joints. 6. 7. General practice is to keep an exchanger to be stored for any length of time in a clean. Typically these considerations have to do with limiting thermal stresses imposed on the heat exchanger. they can provide a blank data sheet to be filled in. Chart prefers to receive a customer’s HYSYS file for the specified exchanger since Chart has a program which converts the HYSYS output to Chart’s design program input. What process information is required for specification? a. It is best to consult with the BAHX supplier as to what supplier is recommended. and fins) and 5083 alloy is used in the header and nozzle components.com. 8. For mechanical couplings.

thermal performance. herringbone. The optimum fin is one that does all of these things at the lowest cost. Please note. For more information. Inc. and allowable pressure drop. Fin types come in a wide variety from most of the ALPEMA suppliers. Chart has/is presenting a paper about this subject at this conference. contact Chart Industries Energy & Chemicals Group at 888-794-7608 or www. Germany and the United Kingdom. They range in height. 12. Chart is the developer and world leader in providing exchangers that are suitable to perform in a mercury environment. Fins are selected on the basis of required design pressure. perforated. Due to the variety of conditions for the exchanger to operate in with mercury present and the proprietary nature of Chart’s design. configuration (straight. Ohio. and serrated).11. China. What fin types are available? What are their selection criteria? How are new fin designs developed and tested? a. Czech Republic. Corrosion and mercury features a.chart-ind. About Chart Industries Chart Industries. b. and fin count (fins per inch).com . Headquartered in Cleveland. Chart recommends that a potential customer speak to us about their individual needs. is a leading global supplier of standard and custom engineered products and systems serving a wide variety of low temperature and cryogenic applications. Chart has domestic operations located in seven states and an international presence in Australia. thickness.

SME Associates Co-authored by Dan Markussen. USES. Chart Industries .BRAZED ALUMINUM PLATE FIN HEAT EXCHANGERS – CONSTRUCTION. AND ADVANTAGES IN CRYOGENIC REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS paper 44a Presented by: Larry Lewis.

BAHX’s are Compact. 10% the weight of CS or SS tubular exchangers Approx. 20% of the volume of CS or SS tubular exchangers Single and multiphase. condensing or evaporating service Complex designs with up to 15 streams are common Single core modules can exceed 6 MM BTU/hr-F “UA” o Approach or pinch temperature of <1 F 2 . High Performance Designs • • • • • • Approx.

BAHX’s offer a large degree of Design Freedom • • • • • • • Design pressures above 2000 psig Design Temperatures from –450F to +400F Up to 15 streams in a single core Single cores can exceed 4’ x 5’ x 25’ Double and Triple core Modules are common Multi-core piped batteries are common ASME Sec. Div 1. and Other Recognized International Codes apply • Can be designed as Mercury Toleranttm 3 . VIII. PED.

Major Components of a BAHX Brazed aluminum heat exchangers are built by stacking layers of corrugated fins separated by parting sheets and sealed along the edges with side bars. 4 . Exchanger core sizes can be in excess of 4’W x 5’D x 25’H. Headers and supports are welded onto the brazed matrix to complete the unit. The matrix assembly is brazed in a large vacuum furnace to form an integral heat exchanger core.

perforated.Wide Range of Fins Available A wide range of fin patterns [plain. herringbone and serrated] accommodate different thermal and hydraulic process requirements enabling the exchanger to be custom designed for an infinite number of processes 5 .

Core-in-Kettle tm Designs A three module core for a Core-in-Kettle tm 6 .

Core-in-Kettle tm Designs 7 .

8 . Their design accommodates heat and mass transfer effects while avoiding flooding.Runback Condenser Designs Run back condensers are high efficiency exchangers for partial condensation of tower overheads . A special fin design is the heart of the refluxing stream delivering the optimum combination of free-flow area and hydraulic mean diameter.

Cold Boxes Typical H2 purification cold box for ethylene service 9 .

Typical Cold Box 10 .

Cascade refrigeration system utilizing tubular exchangers w/ 10 F approach O 11 .

BAHX cascade refrigeration system with 3 F approach O 12 .

13 . System with 3 F approach The BAHX exchangers required only 8179 HP.BAHX cascade Refrig. Reducing the approach temperatures from 10 F to 3 F resulted in a 16% compression HP Reduction.

Conclusion By reducing approach temperatures and by taking advantage of complex refrigeration circuitry available with brazed aluminum and other compact exchangers. plants such as ethylene purification units can reduce refrigeration horsepower or debottleneck existing systems without adding compression. 14 .

Typical Designs 15 .

Are there commissioning requirements. What are allowable piping stresses on nozzles? 7. Can blockages be removed? 3.Frequently Asked Questions 1. What are Mercury Tolerant tm features? 6. How are aluminum exchangers coupled to CS and SS piping? 9. What is the fin selection criteria? 5. start up and cool down rates? 4. Are the exchangers field repairable if a leak is detected? 10. When is upstream filtration required? 2.How are BAHXs tested? Please refer to written paper and Q&A session if your question is not specifically addressed 16 . What process information is required for specification? 8.

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