2008 Edwards Design and Rating Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

Shell and tube heat exchangers are used extensively throughout the process industry and as such a basic understanding of their design, construction and performance is important to the practising engineer. The objective of this paper is to provide a concise review of the key issues involved in their thermal design without having to refer to the extensive literature available on this topic. The author claims no originality but hopes that the format and contents will provide a comprehensive introduction to the subject and enable the reader to achieve rapid and meaningful results. The optimum thermal design of a shell and tube heat exchanger involves the consideration of many interacting design parameters which can be summarised as follows:


1. Process fluid assignments to shell side or tube side.

2. Selection of stream temperature specifications.

3. Setting shell side and tube side pressure drop design limits.

4. Setting shell side and tube side velocity limits.

5. Selection of heat transfer models and fouling coefficients for shell side and tube side.



1. Selection of heat exchanger TEMA layout and number of passes.

2. Specification of tube parameters – size, layout, pitch and material.

3. Setting upper and lower design limits on tube length.

4. Specification of shell side parameters – materials, baffle cut, baffle spacing and clearances.

5. Setting upper and lower design limits on shell diameter, baffle cut and baffle spacing.


There are several software design and rating packages available, including AspenBJAC, HTFS and CC-THERM, which enable the designer to study the effects of the many interacting design parameters and achieve an optimum thermal design. These packages are supported by extensive component physical property databases and thermodynamic models. It must be stressed that software convergence and optimisation routines will not necessarily achieve a practical and economic design without the designer forcing parameters in an intuitive way. It is recommended that the design be  checked by running the model in the rating mode. It is the intention of this paper to provide the basic information and fundamentals in a concise format to achieve this objective. The paper is structured on Chemstations CC-THERM software which enables design and rating to be carried out within a total process model using CHEMCAD steady state modelling software. However the principles involved are applicable to any software design process. In the Attachments a Design Aid is presented which includes key information for data entry and a shortcut calculation method in Excel to allow an independent check to be made on the results from software calculations. Detailed mechanical design and construction involving tube sheet layouts, thicknesses, clearances, tube supports and thermal expansion are not considered but the thermal design must be consistent with the practical requirements. Source references are not indicated in the main text as this paper should be considered as a general guidance note for common applications and is not intended to cover specialist or critical applications. Sources for this paper have been acknowledged where possible. The symbols, where appropriate, are defined in the main text. The equations presented require the use of a consistent set of units unless stated otherwise.


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