Types and Applications of Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

November 22, 2019

Engineers rarely work in settings that afford simple binary determinations. Trained to draft custom-designed products, systems that explicitly suit uniquely specced, client-nominated applications, there are many shades of grey to sift through before a blueprint can be finalized. For instance, a design professional can't just ask for a shell and tube heat exchanger, not when there are a dozen variations on a theme to review before setting pen to paper.

A Collection of Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger Architectures

Odds are, there are shell and tube pressure vessels in boiler rooms. A cold water line warms as it absorbs energy from steam, then that newly warmed liquid travels through a building. In petrochemical applications, a similar thermal exchange mechanism applies heat to a fractionalization tower. Alternatively, cool water flows into the stack section to stabilize a volatile hydrocarbon stream. With such acutely different applications utilizing this popular pressure vessel architecture, it's no surprise that the exchangers have been forced to adapt to their fluid processing settings. Here's a list of the commonest shell-and-tube heat exchanger architectures, as determined by the tube sheet architecture of each vessel configuration:

  • The fixed tube sheet layout
  • U-tube designs
  • Floating head heat exchangers
  • Multi-Pass tube sheets
  • Helical Geometry tube stacks


Everything, from the tube and baffle geometry to the shell architecture, can vary to accommodate a specific heat swapping application.

Application-Based Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

Designed to absolutely separate high pressure and high-temperature fluid streams, fixed tube models are commonly found in oil refineries and chemical processing plants. With U-tube variants, their counterflow-facilitating design causes them to be installed in processing areas that use lower pressures. Swimming pools and small boilers, food processing and vapour condensation applications, they all have much to gain when a space-saving U-tube bundle is fitted. As for the floating head configuration and its finest application instances, think of a design that's troubled by great temperature and pressure differentials. In power stations and turbine usage sites, floating head shell and tube architectures easily handle the additional axial stresses.

Double pass tube configurations simplify process connectivity issues. Helically arranged baffles pair with spiral-shaped tube stacks to create small internal footprints for handling massive pressure differentials. Again, this design favours power station usage sites and places that power large turbines. Really, heat exchangers are infinitely configurable heat transposing devices. Their baffles and tube geometries adapt to handle different temperature and pressure differentials, plus the different fluid states that occur when contrasting processing environments recruit each multitudinously configured vessel design.

Contact Details

Fusion - Weld Engineering Pty Ltd
ABN 98 068 987619

1865 Frankston Flinders Road,
Hastings, VIC 3915

Ph: (03) 5909 8218

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