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Originally appeared in:

September 2012, pgs 95-100.

Used with permission.

| Bonus Report
Heat transfer Developments
The hydrocarbon processing industry (HPI) is an energy-intensive business.
Following feedstock costs, energy (heating and refrigeration) is the secondlargest operating cost center for HPI facilities. Heat exchangers are common
heat-transfer equipment used throughout refineries, petrochemical facilities
and liquefied natural gas (LNG) complexes. The design and maintenance of
exchangers and other heat-transfer equipment dramatically impacts facility
operating costs and product quality as discussed in this months Bonus Report.
A new exchanger is being readied for transport. Photo courtesy of Walter Toasto, a world leader
in the production of heavy-wall static and heat-transfer equipment for the oil, gas, power


Bonus Report

Heat Transfer Developments

J. Cazenave, Aspen Technology Inc., Reading, UK

What are the benefits of rigorous modeling

in heat exchanger design?
Today, process engineers are responsible for many project
activities, including conceptual design, revamp studies
and operational troubleshooting. Increasingly, the process
simulator is an essential tool central to these activities. Process
simulators are very powerful tools for modeling all or parts
of a process. While they are excellent for general-purpose
process modeling, it is the process engineers responsibility to
understand to what extent these tools can be applied, and how
combining their application with more specialized tools might
be appropriate. This choice is ultimately based on the business
and technical objectives to be achieved.
This article examines three different applications where
rigorous heat exchanger models can enhance value derived
from process simulation and provide more accurate results.
These applications include conceptual designs of new plants,
revamps of existing facilities, and operations support.
Conceptual design. One of the key responsibilities of the

process engineer is related to the conceptual design of processes.

With conceptual design, the use of process simulation is
central to project activities. The initial stages of conceptual
design consider the main process synthesis and separation
operations required to convert feedstocks to products. At this
early stage, the process flowsheet typically involves simplified
models of reactors, distillation columns, and the heating and
cooling services required to facilitate the essential parts of
the process. At this stage, the type and design of equipment
required, for example, to preheat reactants before they enter
a reactor, are less important. The traditional functionality of
process simulation in providing heat and mass balance over the
conceptual process is paramount.
As the conceptual design evolves, it becomes important to
take account of the actual equipment involved. The reactors,
separators and heat exchangers need to be evaluated to further
develop their designs to ensure desired performance; to size
them adequately; and to obtain estimates of the capital cost of
the process, the heating and cooling utility requirements and
the energy cost to operate the process. Heat transfer equipment
can typically be up to 30% of the capital cost of process
equipment. Therefore, as the process design progresses, it
is important to take account of the real design requirements
for the major heat transfer equipment items. For any heat
exchanger, two main aspects must be considered:

The first aspect can be modeled by a simple equation:

Q = m (ho hi )


where Q is the rate of heat transfer, m is the mass flow, h is

specific enthalpy, and the subscripts o and i refer, respectively,
to outlet and inlet. Where there is no phase change, this can be
expressed as:
Q = m Cp (To Ti )


where Cp is the specific heat of the fluid, and T is the temperature.

Consider the following simple example, where a water/
water exchanger has been modeled with one side heating up
from 20C to 90C, while the other side is cooling down from
90C to 20C (Fig. 1).
However, if the exchanger must be designed to determine
how much surface it will require, the basic heat transfer
equation (for pure counter-current flow) must be considered:


where U is the overall heat transfer coefficient, A is the effective

area in the heat exchanger, and LMTD is the logarithmic mean
temperature difference.
If a generic heat exchanger is assumed to have two ends
(here referred to as A and B) at which the hot and cold
streams enter or exit on either side, then LMTD is defined by
the logarithmic mean, as follows:
LMTD = (TA TB ) [ln (TA TB )]

Fig. 1. Water/water exchanger model showing one side heating up

and one side cooling down.



Heat Transfer Developments

where TA is the temperature difference between the two
streams at end A, and TB is the temperature difference
between the two streams at end B. In this case, the LMTD will
have a limit of 0, so it will need a UA with an infinite limit.
The second aspect to consider for any real equipment is the
pressure drop that will be consumed on the hot and cold sides
as the respective streams flow through the heat exchanger.
It is normal for the process engineer to designate how much
pressure drop will be allocated to a particular exchanger. For
example, in turbulent ow inside tubes, the local heat transfer
coefficient varies approximately with the mass velocity raised
to the power 0.8. The pressure drop varies approximately
with the mass velocity squared. This means that, if pressure
drop is kept low, the heat transfer coefficient will be very low,
and a large surface area will be needed for the heat exchanger.
A realistic pressure drop must be estimated at this stage to
enable the design of the heat exchanger later without having
to rework the process design.
A more realistic way to model the exchanger is to assume
that one side of the exchanger is between 90C and 25C, with
the other side heating up from 20C to 85C. Both sides have a
pressure drop of 0.5 bar (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Heat exchanger model showing one side heating up and

one side cooling down.

This type of idealized approach is often used to model

an exchanger where a process stream is heated by utility
steam in a heat exchanger. Pure fluids, like steam, condense
isothermally at constant pressure. If isothermal condensation
is present, then EQ. 3 can be applied to good effect; however,
in reality, any pressure drop on the steam side will result in a
lower saturation temperature, and then the exit temperature
will be lower than the inlet temperature.
The main issue with this approach is that it is easy for
the process engineer to specify conditions that later make it
difficult to achieve a practical exchanger design. This hampers
effective collaboration between process engineers and thermal
design specialists, resulting in additional cycles of engineering
to refine the overall process and equipment designs.
One way to promote better collaboration between
disciplines and achieve better designs quickly is to
use a rigorous exchanger modeling tool within the
process simulation to achieve a preliminary design. This
approach enables the process engineer to get a better first
approximation for evaluating the feasibility of the process,
and to give the thermal specialist a useful starting point for
full design optimization. Where this technique is employed,
it has been shown to reduce project schedules and eliminate
costly rework.
Revamp studies. The second type of project where rigorous
heat exchanger modeling can improve the engineering
workflow is a revamp. Typically, revamp projects have two
main aspects. First, there is a check that the actual proposed
equipment in the process is accurately simulating the plant
performance data. Secondly, what if options can be
explored for process and capital improvements, with different
equipment geometries and stream sequencings validated
against the revamps performance objective.
Modeling an existing exchanger can be easy if plant data
is available. The process simulator allows the specification
of process conditions for the exchanger. This, in turn, allows
simple modeling of an exchanger based on EQ. 3, and it
enables the simulator to estimate the exchanger duty. The
inherent assumption is that UA will remain constant. The
pressure drop will not be recalculated by the simulator, so any
variation will need to be estimated with a manual calculation.
As mentioned earlier, for single-phase turbulent flow inside
tubes, the local heat transfer coefficient will vary according to:

= f (m0.8 )

Fig. 3. Revamp study of an exchanger in a crude preheat train.


where is the local tube-side heat transfer coefficient, and m

is the mass velocity in the tubes. This indicates that, as the flow
of either stream in an exchanger is varied, the simple modeling
of the simulator will result in an error in the estimated duty
of an exchanger. Change in steam properties will also be
unaccounted for in this simple modeling approach.
In the following example, the first exchanger downstream
of the desalter in a crude preheat train is subject to examination
in a revamp study where the overall aim is to recover more
pumparound energy and increase the throughput of the
refinery (Fig. 3). The first step is to model the existing
exchanger. The crude on the tube side of this exchanger is


Heat Transfer Developments

Table 1. Modeling data for a heat exchanger in a crude preheat chain

Design conditions

New conditions

Pressure drop, bar

Temperature drop, C

Pressure drop, bar

Temperature drop, C




Rigorous model








Rigorous model










more than 3% for the temperature drop, and from less than 2%
to more than 20% for the pressure drop. The rigorous modeling
shows that the pressure drop increased to a value higher than
the limit of 0.6 bar defined in the process. After the revamp and
a redesign of the heat exchanger, it is possible to calculate the
pressure drop for the rigorous model below the limit of 0.6 bar.
The rigorous modeling of the heat exchanger is needed to
check the performance with new process conditions and to
properly design a revamped heat exchanger. The integration
of rigorous modeling inside the simulator allows the engineer
to check the anticipated heat exchanger performance and
take any corrective design actions without leaving the
simulator environment.

Fig. 4. Water-cooled exchanger on a gas compression system.

Fig. 5. Rigorous simulation for a water-cooled exchanger.

focused on in Table 1.
The first two columns are the values of the pressure drop
and the temperature changes on the tube side of the exchanger.
The last two columns represent the difference between the
simple UA modeling and the rigorous modeling approaches.
In the first set of process conditions, the rigorous model
and UA model values are close. This is expected, since the
UA model is based on the result of the rigorous calculation
performed during the design stage. However, when the process
conditions change, the UA model and rigorous model diverge,
with the relative difference increasing from less than 1% to

Operation support. In this case study, an existing exchanger

on a gas compression system is water-cooled. The process
is modeled with a control operation that simulates the
adjustment of the water flow to achieve a specified outlet
temperature for the gas being cooled on the tube side of the
heat exchanger (Fig. 4).
The operator is seeking to reduce the outlet temperature of
the heat exchanger to reduce the power consumed by a large
compressor. In the process simulator, it is simple to set a lower
gas outlet temperature target in the control block, and the
coolant flow rate will be increased until the new, higher duty
is achieved.
In the rigorous exchanger simulation shown in Fig. 5, it
is clear that the pressure drop on the water side is below the
maximum allowable for the existing operating conditions.
If a lower gas outlet temperature is prescribed to affect the
desired reduced compressor power, the rigorous model in the
simulation responds to the increased coolant flow that the
adjust mechanism imposes. The exchanger can now achieve
the new duty. However, because a rigorous tool is being used,
other beneficial calculations can be performed. The results
highlighted in Fig. 6 show three issues to consider:
Pressure drop. The increase in water flow has resulted in
a pressure drop on the shell side, which exceeds the design
allowable. This may mean that sufficient pumping capacity will
not be available to achieve the required flow.
Dynamic pressure. The Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers
Association (TEMA) defines maximum dynamic pressure as:

q = rho v 2



Heat Transfer Developments

where rho is the fluid density, and v is the fluid velocity.1
The maximum dynamic pressure will be different based
on the exchanger geometry. Exceeding these values brings
the risk of excessive erosion and the potential for premature
failure of tubes or other pressure parts of the exchanger.
Vibration. The rigorous exchanger model performs a
vibration analysis for the exchanger bundle. It can be seen
that the increase in the cooling-water flowrate has resulted in
a possible risk of flow-induced vibration for this exchanger
bundle. This can lead to tube failure, which, in some cases,
can be rapid.
The process simulation, coupled with the rigorous heat
exchanger analysis, can reveal potential operational problems
that go far beyond the simple considerations of heat and

Fig. 6. Results of rigorous simulation for a water-cooled exchanger.

mass balance. In this case, the operator can choose to work

within limits that avoid the risks of erosion, flow-induced
vibration and other operational problems. The simulator
and the rigorous exchanger tools can be used to evaluate an
alternative control scheme, such as controlling the coolingwater temperature instead of the flowrate.
Best practice in exchanger/process modeling. Today,

leading engineering and operating companies in the chemical

and energy sectors are exploiting the integration of rigorous
exchanger models within process simulation to reduce project
schedules, minimize rework, and provide better overall
optimization of their processes.
However, traditional organizations often separate
process engineering, thermal design and mechanical design
functions, which can be a barrier to the adoption of integrated

technologies. As companies recognize the benefits provided

by closer cooperation between the disciplines involved, many
are seeing that they can make much more effective use of
specialist skills when process engineers undertake preliminary
designs using rigorous models in their simulations. Such
simulations can then be fully optimized by the thermal
specialist as process activities proceed.
In many smaller engineering organizations, a broader skill
base for process engineers allows them to directly exploit the
benefits of the integration discussed here. In a case study2
presented at the OPTIMIZE 2011 conference, one chemical
company discussed a feasibility study wherein a reduction
in capital equipment costs of 15% and an annual energy
savings of $200,000 were discovered through the integration
of rigorous equipment modeling with process simulation.
Another company obtained an estimated $5.5 million
in additional revenue from increased liquefied petroleum
gas (LPG) production, while reducing equipment costs by
$0.5 million.3 This was achieved through the integration of
a plate-fin rigorous modeling tool inside a process simulator.
The integration allowed the evaluation of various alternative
process solutions and their direct impact on temperature
approach in the heat exchanger type selected.
The integration of rigorous modeling tools for heat
exchanger modeling inside process simulators allows a
faster delivery of projects by shortening the discussion time
between different disciplines. Process engineers can be
confident with the results of the process modeling by using
the real geometry and the most rigorous tool for the heat
exchanger calculation. Finally, plant operations are made
safer by modeling all aspects of the heat exchanger operation,
such as vibration.
Literature citeD
Standards of the Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association, 9th Ed., New York,
New York, 2007.
Roy, E., presentation at the AspenTech OPTIMIZE 2011 Conference,
Washington, DC, May 2011.
Venkatesh, L., Petrofac Engineering India Ltd., presentation at Aspentech
OPTIMIZE 2011 Conference, Washington, DC, May 2011.

Julien Cazenave is an Aspen exchanger design and rating (EDR) business

consultant for AspenTech, based at the companys European headquarters in
Reading, UK. He has more than 10 years of experience in working with customers
of AspenTechs EDR and simulation products across Europe, the Middle East and
Africa. Mr. Cazenave ensures that customers derive maximum value from their
investment and are regularly updated on new developments in the software and
the underlying technology.

Article copyright 2013 by Gulf Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.
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