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This unit introduces some fundamental concepts of heat exchangers including the theory, principles, operation,
construction, and application of these components.

Unit Objectives:

Desired outcome: describe basic construction, application, and operation of basic plant components. BCK
: explain the principles associated with heat exchangers and describe the following. PPF
Enabling statements:
1.* Describe the theory, construction, and application of the following components: BCK
* Heat exchangers as:
a. Cross flow
b. Counter current
c. Parallel flow
d. Steam condensers
e. Steam generators (U-tube and once through) Include a discussion on heat transfer across
the the heat exchanger and indications of heat exchanger fouling.

2. *Explain the principles associated with heat exchangers and describe the following: PPF
a. Purpose (such as heating, cooling, condensing, steam generators)
b. Types
c. Classification by flow (such as cross-flow, counter-flow and parallel flow)
d. Classification by heat transfer process
e. Major components (such as shell, tubes, relief valves, vacuum breakers)
f. Principles of operation
g. Failure mechanisms and symptoms (such as air binding, tube leaks, heat transfer

The heat exchanger: Is a piece of equipment built for efficient heat transfer from one medium to another.
The media may be separated by a solid wall, so that they never mix, or they may be in direct contact. Heat
exchangers are found in most chemical or mechanical systems. They serve as the system's means of gaining or
rejecting heat. Some of the more common applications are found in heating, ventilation and air
conditioning (HVAC) systems, radiators on internal combustion engines, boilers, condensers, and as
preheaters or coolers in fluid systems. This unit will review some specific heat exchanger applications.

Background knowledge needed for discussion.

 Definitions:

 Heat: is energy in transit from one mass to another because of a temperature difference
between the two. A form of energy associated with the motion of atoms or molecules and
transferred from a body at a higher temperature to one at a lower temperature.
 Temperature: a measure of the ability to transfer heat.
 Heat Exchanger: device to transfer heat from one fluid to another.

 Heat energy will move from a high energy state to that of a lower energy state. The process
will continue until a state of equilibrium is reached. Equilibrium is the energy state where
the material is at the same energy level as its surroundings.
 Energy will flow from a “hot” material to a “cold” material. “Hot” and “cold” refer to
temperature, not the amount of heat. The process continues as long as there is a temperature
difference between the materials.
 The mechanisms for heat transfer are; conduction, convection (natural and forced) and
radiation. The heat transfer processes can work separately or in conjunction with others.
 Heat transfer coefficient: is a property of each material’s ability to transfer heat. The higher
the number value, the more heat transfers through the material. This number is not an
additive property. The coefficient values will be affected by scale build-up, film boundary
layers, air layers and other material interference.
 Latent heat is the energy added or removed to cause a change in state.
 Mechanisms of heat transfer:

 Conduction: heat is transferred as a result of physical contact between two materials or from
one part of an object to another part of the same object. The transfer is by short-range
interaction of molecules and/or electrons. Heat is transferred by collisions or direct
 Convection: heat transfer in a gas or liquid by the circulation of currents from one region to
another. The heat is transferred by the actual movement of the heated material. This is
usually the most important heat transfer process within liquids and gases.
 Radiation: the emission of energy in the form of electromagnetic waves, which transmit
energy from a source to an absorber.
 Any combinations of above.

 Four functions performed by heat exchangers:

 Raise system temperature. Heaters, for example, feedwater heaters.
 Lower system temperature. Coolers, for example, lube oil coolers
 Add latent heat. Convert a solid into a liquid – melting
 Remove latent heat. Convert vapor/gas into a liquid, example, condensers.
 Convert a liquid into a solid – freezing, example; chillers
 Construction of shell and tube type heat exchanger.

Types/categories of heat exchangers; construction, theory of operation, and

application: although heat exchangers come in every shape and size imaginable, the construction of most
heat exchangers falls into one of three categories: shell and tube, plate, or direct mixing. As in all
mechanical devices, each type has disadvantages and advantages and a nuclear plant uses all of them.
We will also discuss the different types by flow after a review by category.

Shell and tube:

 Construction:
 The typical shell and tube heat exchanger consists of a shell, a tube bundle, tube sheets, two
waterboxes, and two fluids. The shell forms a casing around the region where heat transfer
occurs. One fluid flows through the tube bundle. That fluid is called the tube side fluid and
is usually the fluid with the lowest temperature. The other fluid flows outside the tubes and
is called the shell side fluid. The tube sheets are metal plates that the tubes are attached to.
The tube sheets separate the two fluids in the heat exchanger and provide support for the
tubes. The areas at each end of the tubes are the waterboxes. The tube side fluid enters
through one of the waterboxes, flows through the tubes, and exits though the other waterbox.
 See illustration below.





 There are various tube shapes on heat exchangers and some are shown below.


 Shell and tube heat exchangers can be arranged with any number of tube or shell passes. A pass
occurs each time either fluid flows across or along the heat exchangers length. Below are several
shell and tube arrangements for single and multiple-pass heat exchangers. Multiple passes allow
the heat exchanger to be
shorter with effectively the same
tube length as a longer single-pass

Types of shell and tube:

 U-tube type: (shell and tube)
 There is no mixing of the fluids. Most common is the tube and shell type heat exchanger.
 The shell provides the supporting enclosure for the heat exchanger. Typical materials of
construction are cylinder or pipe of carbon steel or alloy steel, plate of carbon steel,
molybdenum, nickel, chromium, chromium nickel steels, and other alloys.
 The tubes: provide the means for separation of fluids in the heat exchanger, and transfer the
heat from hotter fluid or steam to colder fluid.
 Bonnet or head (the end of the heat exchanger). Provides the entrance and exit connections
for the cooling fluids. It can be designed to establish the number of passes the cooling fluid

will make in the heat exchanger. Typical materials of construction; normally made of the
same material as the shell. See drawing below for a U-tube type heat exchangers:

 In large steam systems (nuclear plant), or in any process requiring high temperatures, the input
fluid is usually preheated in stages, instead of trying to heat it in one step from ambient to the
final temperature. Preheating in stages increases the plant's efficiency and minimizes
thermal shock stress to components, as compared to injecting ambient temperature liquid
Feedwater out
into a boiler or other device that operates at high temperatures. In the case of a steam
system, a portion of the process steam is tapped off and used asina heat source to reheat the
feedwater in preheater stages.
 As the steam enters the heat exchanger and flows over and around the tubes, it transfers its
thermal energy and is condensed. Note that the steam enters from the top into the shell side
of the heat exchanger, where it not only transfers sensible heat (temperature change) but
also gives up its latent heat of vaporization (condenses steam into water).
 The thermodynamic heat transfer equation that applies is q = (UA) ∆T. You will learn
more about this when you are in your thermo class. We will talk about the general
heat transfer for heat exchangers in this class after the review of all the different types.

 If you turn the U-tube heat exchanger vertically and rearrange the ins and outs, And
add a few more items you have a Steam Generator (S/G). Like those used at most
Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) nuclear plants used to generate steam for electrical

The reactor coolant flows
through the primary side, or
inverted U-tubes, entering and
leaving through the nozzles
located in the hemispherical
bottom head of the steam
generator. The head is divided
into inlet and outlet chambers
by a vertical partition plate
extending from the head to the
tube sheet. A steam and water
mixture is generated on the
secondary, or shell side, and
flows upward through the
moisture separators to the
outlet nozzle at the top of the
vessel, providing an essentially
dry, superheated steam.
Feedwater is supplied to the
steam generator from the main
feedwater system at a
temperature below its
saturation temperature. This
water is on the shell side and is
heated by the reactor coolant
water flowing through the
tubes. Steam formation occurs
as the latent heat of
vaporization is picked up by
the feedwater.

 You will see, and get more information on the steam generator as you continue your courses
at BSC.

 Straight through or fixed tubesheet (shell and tube) Type: see drawing below.


 This type has straight tubes that are secured at both ends to tubesheets welded to the shell.
The construction may have removable channel covers.

 The principal advantage of the fixed tubesheet is 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.

 A picture of a fixed tube heat exchanger with bonnets off is on the next page as well as an
insulated one at a nuclear plant. Note the tube arrangement.

 If you read the sign on the front of the heat exchanger (next page) you will see that it is the
12th one in the system, also, it is just one of the low pressure heaters! For those of you that
have not been in a power plant, I hope this give you an idea of the size and scope of the use
of heat exchangers at a nuclear power plant.


At nuclear plants, these heat exchangers can be very large; as seen in this photo.

 As an essential element of any power station, the surface condenser, which acts as an interface
between the water steam cycle and the environment, is a heat exchanger fed with steam from the
low-pressure exhaust of the turbine and cooled by the water available on the site.

The steam surface condensers used at plants

are very large as shown by the picture at
left. This heat exchanger is a straight
through type with steam being condensed
under a vacuum on one side and by the sites
circ-water system flowing through the tubes.


If you turn the straight through heat exchanger vertically and install a few more components you get the
Babcock and Wilcox straight through steam generator. See drawing below.

In the once through S/G , the hot primary coolant

enters at the top and passes down through the
tube side. feedwater enters at the bottom and the
same general heating process occurs as the other
S/G. The once through S/G is more efficient than
the tube type for producing steam.

Shell and tube regenerative and non-regenerative heat exchangers:

 Heat exchangers may also be classified according to the disposition of the heat transferred. A non-
regenerative heat exchanger is a component allowing the transfer of heat between the liquids
contained in two distinct systems, for example, turbine lube oil coolers and residual heat removal
heat exchangers. Non-regenerative heat exchangers are used primarily to transfer heat out of a
particular system. Heat removed from the system is rejected from the system and not returned.

 A regenerative heat exchanger, on the other hand, is a component allowing the transfer of
heat from the high temperature fluid of a system into the low temperature sections of the
fluid in the same system (an example is the feedwater heaters in the secondary system).
Regenerative heat exchangers minimize the energy loss from a system, since heat is not
rejected into a separate system.
 A typical application is the use of a regenerative heat exchanger in the primary system's
chemical and volume control system. Flow from the Reactor Coolant System enters the first
heat exchanger, which is a regenerative heat exchanger. The letdown temperature is
reduced from 540 OF to 250 O F while the cooling water is the charging flow returning to the
system. To reduce the letdown temperature further and protect ion exchange resin, flow is
sent through another heat exchanger. This is a non-regenerative heat exchanger, with
cooling provided by a cooling water system. Flow passes through an ion exchanger to
remove ionic impurities and then returns to the Reactor Coolant System. To heat the return
flow closer to RCS temperature, it passes through the regenerative heat exchanger, where it
gains heat energy, increasing its temperature.
These first two types of heat exchangers are most common in the power system with feedwater heating
and steam generation at a nuclear plant. You will see these scattered about on the turbine deck.

 Plate type heat exchanger:

 A plate heat exchanger is a unit which transfers heat continuously from one media to another
media without adding energy to the process. The basic concept of a plate and frame heat
exchanger is two liquids flowing on either side of a thin corrugated metal plate so heat may
be easily transferred between the two. (By conduction across the plate)

 The plates are compressed by means of tie bolts between a stationary frame part (called the
head) and a movable frame part (called the follower).
The plate heat exchanger efficiency requires less floor space compared to other types of heat
transfer equipment and is lighter in weight.

 The plate heat exchanger is designed with either single-pass or multi-pass flow, depending on
the duty. For most duties single-pass is suitable and often the preferred solution as it keeps all
connections on the stationary frame part and consequently makes disassembly easier. Multi-
Pass however, is required when flow rates are low or when approach temperatures are close.

 Below, are drawings of a plate type heat exchanger. The blue is the cold fluid or gas and the
red is the hotter fluid or gas.


 Direct contact heat exchangers;

(examples cooling towers, and reactor coolant

 The mixing of the different

fluids at different temperatures

account for the amount of heat
transferred. The exchange of heat is

direct; between the molecules of the mixing fluids.

 See drawings. For an

understanding of direct contact heat exchangers.

 Spray type direct contact

heat exchanger (pressurizer in a PWR) see


Spray from cold leg condenses steam in the pressurizer. This water is colder than the hotter pressurizer
temperature caused by the heaters. When proper reactor coolant pressure is reached the spray cuts off.

Evaporative effect creates the temperature change. Latent heat of vaporization is released to the condensing
fluid or visa-versa.

Now that we have looked at the different categories of heat exchangers, the student will next learn the
types of flow. Heat exchangers are typed by their flow.
d to the hot leg of the reactor coolant system at a PWR. It
pray flow.  Because heat exchangers come in so many shapes, sizes, makes, and models, they are typed according
to common characteristics. One common characteristic that can be used to categorize them is the
direction of flow the two fluids have relative to each other. The three categories are parallel flow,
counter flow, and cross flow.

 Parallel flow:
 Both the cooling media and the fluid to be cooled flow in the same direction. Flow
velocities may not be the same. If the length of the cooling tubes is long enough, the
temperature differential at the exit of the heat exchanger may be small.
 An example is given in the drawing below. The flow in the tube (center) is in the same
direction as the flow in the shell (outer
 This form of flow in a heat exchanger is less efficient in that the maximum amount of
transfer occurs only at the beginning of the exchange. Remember the ∆𝑇 in the equation. As
the length of travel increases the ∆𝑇 decreases.
 Below is a drawing illustrating parallel flow.


 Cross flow:
 This occurs if the two fluids flow perpendicular to each other. Condensers are classic
examples of cross flow heat exchangers. The exhaust steam flows downward in a
perpendicular path to the tubes containing the cooling water flow. See illustration below.

 Counter current: (or counter flow)

 These heat exchangers also have parallel flow paths for the fluids, but they flow in opposite
 Generally this is the most desirable arrangement, because a higher average temperature
difference between the two fluids is maintained.
 For equally sized (surface area) heat exchangers, counter flow heat exchangers transfer more
heat (are more efficient) due to higher average ∆T between the working fluids as the fluids
pass from the inlet to outlet.
 See illustration


 Special application of a cross flow shell and tube (the condenser)

 A main condenser is a large, vacuum tight, shell and tube heat exchanger. Low-pressure
steam is exhausted over the tubes, while circulating water flows through the tubes. The
shell side of the main condenser is called the steam side. The tubes and water boxes make
up the water side. The condenser has two main functions: (1) to provide a high vacuum
environment for turbine exhaust steam, and (2) to condense turbine exhaust steam so that it
can be reused in the power cycle.
 For good plant efficiency, it is important for the steam side of the main condenser to
operate in a vacuum. A low turbine exhaust pressure allows the steam passing through the
turbine to do more work. The large volume reduction that occurs when the steam
condenses produces the vacuum in the main condenser.
 As the exhaust steam contacts the cold condenser tubes (caused by the circ water going
through them) it condenses forming condensate. The condensate falls from the tubes and
collects in the hotwell (the shell).
 The latent heat of condensation is transferred to, and warms, the circulating water through
the tube walls. Large quantities of cooling water are needed. Approximately 65 to 100
pounds, or 8 to 12 gallons, of cooling water are needed for each pound of steam condensed
 On the next page is an illustration of a nuclear plant condenser.


Exchanger dynamics:
 The physical and thermal characteristics are vastly different between the type of shell and tube, the
flow type, the kind of pass, and also for high and low pressure feedwater heaters. Low pressure
feedwater pressure ratings range between 400 and 800 psig, and high pressures range from 1,600
to 4,800 psig depending on usage.

 The dynamic operation of

a heat exchanger
depends upon many
factors. The equations
used for determining
the temperature change or
enthalpy change
presented in this
lecture assume that the
overall heat transfer
coefficient is a
constant throughout
the length of the heat exchanger. The overall heat transfer coefficient depends upon the convective
heat transfer on both sides of the heat exchanger tubes and the conductive heat transfer through the
tube walls.
 The conductive heat transfer is determined by the thermal conductivity of the heat exchanger tubes
and the driving T across the tube walls. The thermal conductivity is temperature dependent. The
driving T changes along the length of the heat exchanger.
 The convective heat transfer is determined by the convective heat transfer coefficients of the fluids
on both sides of the heat transfer tubes. The convective heat transfer coefficients are higher for
higher mass flow rates, fluids with higher specific heat capacity, and fluids with higher thermal
conductivity. For a given system, the only parameter that can be easily controlled is the mass flow
rate of the fluids.
 For steady state conditions, the following equation describes the temperature changes occurring in
a heat exchanger with no phase change occurring on either side of the tubes:
 1c p1 T1  m
 2 c p 2 T2
m = Mass flow rate of the cold fluid (lbm/hr)
cp1 = Specific heat capacity of the cold fluid (Btu-hr/lbmF)
T1 = Temperature difference across heat exchanger for cold fluid (F)
m 2 = Mass flow rate of the hot fluid (lbm/hr)
cp2 = Specific heat capacity of the hot fluid (Btu-hr/lbmF)
T2 = Temperature difference across heat exchanger for hot fluid (F)

 Assuming water on both sides of the heat exchanger, the specific heat capacities (cp) can be assumed
constant and identical. This equation can be rearranged to:
T2   1 T1
m 2
Tout 2  Tin 2  T
2 1
 It can be seen (graph below) that the hot fluid outlet temperature (Tout2) can be decreased by increasing
the flow of the cold fluid, ( m 1 ). This assumes that the change in flow rate is small enough so that the
heat transfer coefficients of the fluids do not change. It can also be seen that for given mass flow rates
for both the hot and cold fluids, the hot fluid outlet temperature changes in the same manner as the hot
fluid inlet temperature changes. If Tin2 increases, Tout2 increases.
 It is not as obvious what happens to the hot fluid outlet temperature when the cold fluid inlet
temperature changes. Assume that the hot fluid inlet temperature and the cold fluid inlet temperature are
the same. The outlet temperatures will also be the same. As the cold fluid inlet temperature is gradually
reduced, the outlet temperature of the cold fluid will be higher than the cold fluid inlet temperature
because of the heat transfer taking place. The outlet temperature of the hot fluid will also be lower than
the hot fluid inlet temperature because of the heat transfer taking place. As the graph illustrates, a
decrease in cold fluid inlet temperature causes a corresponding decrease in the hot and cold outlet
temperatures and the inlet and outlet
temperature differences become
larger. If Tin1 decreases, Tout2

 The below graph depicts the effect of changing the mass flow rate of either the hot or cold fluid. As the
cold fluid mass flow rate increases, the cold fluid outlet temperature decreases which increases the
average T between the two fluids. The heat transfer rate increases causing the hot fluid outlet
temperature to decrease. Likewise, increasing the mass flow rate of only the hot fluid again causes the
average T between the two fluids to increase. The resulting increase in heat transfer rate causes the
cold fluid outlet temperature to increase.
Decreasing either fluid flow rate produces an
opposite effect..

 To summarize, the hot fluid outlet temperature can be decreased by increasing the mass flow rate of the
cold fluid or decreasing the mass flow rate of the hot fluid (small mass flow rate changes). A decrease
in the hot inlet fluid temperature or a decrease in the cold fluid inlet temperature will also result in a
reduction of the hot fluid outlet temperature.
 With phase change, the problem becomes more complicated and is outside the scope of this course. The
heat transfer involved with phase change will be covered in the heat-transfer and fluid flow course.
Principles of heat exchanger operation:

Start up:

 Before a heat exchanger can be operated, it must be filled with the operating fluids. While filling a heat
exchanger, the differential thermal expansion between the tubes and the shell should be minimized.
This is done by gradually introducing the fluids into the heat exchanger by throttling the inlet valves.
Warming of a heat exchanger should be done gradually to prevent thermal shock.
 The heat exchanger vent valves must also be open while filling a heat exchanger. This lets air escape
and prevents air binding of the heat transfer surfaces. As the heat exchanger fills up, the air space
becomes smaller and smaller until it is gone. At the instant the air space disappears the heat exchanger
is solid with water and the pressure increases to near the discharge pressure of the pump being used to
fill the heat exchanger. This causes a pressure spike (water hammer) that can damage pumps, valves,
pipes, and heat exchangers so relief valves as well as vacuum breakers are installed to prevent design
pressure rise or vacuum change.

 The heat exchanger inlet valve is throttled to limit the inlet flow and minimize the pressure spike. Once
the heat exchanger is full, the vent valves are closed.
 To place the heat exchanger in service, the cold fluid is circulated first. Utilizing the vent connections
ensures air evacuation. A heat exchanger containing trapped air is less efficient because the air
effectively reduces the heat transfer surface area. The hot fluid is valved in last to prevent thermal
shock. Air evacuation is again accomplished using the vent connections.
Heat exchanger shutdown
 To shut down a heat exchanger, the flow of the hot fluid should be gradually reduced to zero. Then the
flow of the cold fluid should be stopped. In those heat exchangers with a cold fluid significantly cooler
than the hot fluid or cooler than the ambient temperature, the flow should be stopped quickly. This
minimizes the thermal contraction during cooling.
 The heat exchanger can then be drained or placed in wet lay-up (heat exchanger filled to the vents, and
the vents open). Draining of a heat exchanger is done by opening the vent valves and then the drain
valves. A heat exchanger is placed in wet lay-up if it is to be returned to service after a short time and
the heat exchanger does not require maintenance.
Failure mechanisms and symptoms:
 Typically, the failure of a heat exchanger to perform to specifications may be caused by one or more of
the following factors: (1) excessive fouling, (2) air or gas binding resulting from improper piping
installation or lack of suitable vents, (3) operating conditions differing from design conditions, (4) mal-
distribution of flow in the unit, and (5) excessive clearances between the baffles and shell and/or tubes
due to corrosion. (6) Tube to shell leakage
 Excessive fouling: this is particularly likely for untreated water supplies or service water. The
fouling causes a reduction in flow, sets up corrosion cells, and reduces heat transfer across
the tube shell interface. The fix for this is the monitoring of parameters and inspections if any
irregularities in readings are found. Cleaning will be the end result. Proper chemistry control
and sound operating procedures will reduce this possibility.
 Air or gas binding: is caused by improper venting during start up, the introduction of air in
the system, or steam formation due to a leaking tube. Use proper venting procedures and
check for tube to shell leaks where possible.
 Tube leaks are a major problem with main condensers. The not only have low quality water
flowing through the tubes, but have high temperatures on the vacuum side setting up the
conditions for a leak. When the leak occurs, The low quality water affects the water
chemistry of the condensate thus causing problems in the steam generator. If the system is
radioactive cross contamination of systems can occur causing radiological hazards.
 Failure to keep all tubes clean can result in severe flow restrictions through some tubes which could
cause damaging thermal stresses, resulting in leaking tube joints or structural damage to other
 Temperatures and pressures of the fluid entering and leaving the equipment should be checked regularly
to evaluate the function of the unit. For example, an increase in the pressure drop across the unit – with
an accompanying decrease in the temperature range may indicate vapor or gas binding.
 A slight sludge or scale coating on the tube greatly reduces the heat transfer efficiency. Therefore,
exchangers subject to fouling or scaling should be cleaned periodically. A marked increase in pressure
drop and/or reduction in performance usually indicates cleaning is necessary. The unit should first be
checked for air or vapor entrapment to confirm that this is not the cause for the reduction in
performance. Since the difficulty of cleaning increases rapidly as the scale thickness or deposit
increases, the intervals between cleanings should not be excessive.
This completes the unit on Heat Exchangers.