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General Models of Fouling


In Chapter 1 it was stated that the rate of build up of deposit on a surface could
be defined by the simple concept of the difference between the rates of deposition
and removal. In more precise mathematical terms

= ~o - ~R (4.1)

where m is the mass of deposit say per m 2

and #n and ~R are the deposit and removal mass flow rates per unit area of
surface respectively

The equation is a statement of the mass balance across the fluid/solid interface, i.e.

Accumulation = Input - Output (4.2)

In addition to the increased heat transfer resistance of the foulant layer its
presence can have two further effects. If the deposit thickness is appreciable, then
the area for fluid flow, the cross-sectional area of a tube for instance if the
deposition takes place within a tube, is reduced (see Chapter 3) Under certain
conditions, this reduction may be considerable. For the same volume flow,
therefore, the fluid velocity will increase and for identical conditions the Reynolds
number will increase.
If the clean tube diameter is d~ and the volumetric flow rate is V then the
original velocity u~ is given by

u, = V ~ (4.3)

If due to the fouling process d~ is reduced to d~/2 the new velocity u 2 for the same
mass flow rate is given by

u2 - (4.4)
24 Fouling of Heat Exchangers

i.e. a fourfold increase in velocity.

The corresponding Reynolds number will be

d 1 16V P i . e . 8Vp
2 ad, 2 r/ ad, r/

where r/and p are the fluid viscosity and density respectively

Compared with the original Reynolds number

4V .p_p_i.e4Vp

i.e. the Reynolds number has been doubled due to the presence of the deposit.

In addition the roughness of the deposit surface will be different from the clean
heat exchanger surface roughness (usually greater) which will result in a change in
the level of turbulence particularly near the surface. Greater roughness will
produce greater turbulence with its enhancement of heat transfer or a smoother
surface may reduce the level of turbulence. An alternative statement describing the
effects of fouling may be made on this basis [Bott and Walker 1971 ].

Change in = Change due to + Change due + Change due

heat transfer thermal to roughness to change in
coefficient resistance of of foulant Re caused by (4.6)
foulant the presence
of the foulant

The purpose of any fouling model is to assist the designer or indeed the
operator of heat exchangers, to make an assessment of the impact of fouling on
heat exchanger performance given certain operating conditions. Ideally a
mathematical interpretation of Equation 4.6 would provide the basis for such an
assessment but the inclusion of an extensive set of conditions into one
mathematical model would be at best, difficult and even impossible.
Fig. 1.2 provided an idealised picture of the development of a deposit with time.
Other possibilities, still ideal, are possible and these are shown on Fig. 4.1. Curve
C represents the asymptotic curve of Fig. 1.2. Curve A represents a straight line
relationship of deposit thickness with time, i.e. the rate of development
GeneralModels of Fouling 25




Time t

FIGURE 4.1. Idealised deposition curves

of the fouling layer is constant once the initiation of the process has taken place.
Curve B on the other hand, represents a falling rate of deposition once initiation
has occurred. It is possible that in effect, Curve B is essentially part of a similar
curve to C and if the process of deposition were allowed to progress sufficiently an
asymptote would be produced.
General models of the fouling process are essentially the fitting of equations to
the curves illustrated in Fig. 4.1. The curves A, B and C on Fig. 4.1 are shown to
have an initiation or induction period, but in some examples of fouling, e.g. the
deposition of wax from waxy hydrocarbons during a cooling process, the initiation
period may be so short as to be negligible. It is often extremely difficult or
impossible to predict the initiation period even with the benefit of experience, so
that most mathematical models that have been developed ignore it, i.e. fouling
begins as soon as fluid flows through the heat exchanger.
The inaccuracY in ignoring the initiation period is not likely to be great. For
severe fouling problems the initiation of fouling is usually rapid. Where the
establishment of the fouling takes longer it is usually accompanied by a modest rate
of fouling. Under these circumstances where long periods between heat exchanger
cleans are possible, the induction period represents a relatively small percentage of
the cycle. Errors in ignoring it are therefore small particularly in the light of the
other uncertainties associated with the fouling process. Typical initiation periods
may be in the range 50 - 400 hours.
26 Fouling of Heat Exchangers


The simplest model is that of Curve A in Fig. 4.1 but ignoring the induction
period and would have the form

xI =-~-. t (4.7)

where xI is the thickness of deposit at time t.

If the induction time (or initiation period) is t~ then the Equation 4.7 becomes

xy=~t (t-ti) (4.8)

The difficulty of course in using this model is that without experimental work
dx/dt is unknown and the use of xI to determine the fouling resistance to heat
transfer is also a problem since the thermal conductivity of the foulant is not
usually known (see Chapter 2). In terms of fouling resistance Equation 4.8 would
take the form

R~ - - - ~ ( t - t~) (4.9)

where R~ is the fouling thermal resistance at time t and

x~ (4.10)
R1~= 2I

where x~ is the thickness and time t

Even in this form the model is difficult to use unless dR/dt is known from
experimental determinations the conditions of which can also be applied to the
fouling problem in hand.


One of the simplest models to explain the fouling process was put forward by
Kern and Seaton [ 1959].

R~ =Rioo(1-e~ ) (4.11)
General Models of Fouling 27

where R~ is the fouling thermal resistance at time t

RI,. is the fouling resistance at infinite time - the asymptotic value.

fl is a constant dependent on the system properties

The model is essentially a mathematical interpretation of the asymptotic fouling

curve, Fig. 1.2 (or Curve C on Fig. 4.1, but ignoring the initiation time). It is an
idealised model and does little for the designer of a heat exchanger unless specific
values for RI~ and fl are to hand. The actual values of these constants will depend
upon the type of fouling and the operating conditions. In general there will be no
way of predicting these values unless some detailed experimental work has been
completed. Such research is ot'ten time consuming and therefore, expensive. The
Kern and Seaton model does, however, provide a mathematical explanation of the
simple fouling concept. A compromise solution was proposed [Bott and Walker
1973] which employs limited data gathered over a much shorter time span, but the
results of such an approach would need to be treated with caution.
Kern and Seaton [1959] proposed a mathematical restatement of Equation 4.1
with tubular flow in mind of the form

dxl = K~c'M - K2 rx ~ (4.12)


where K~c'M is the rate of deposition term similar to a first order reaction

K2x~ is the rate of removal (or erosion) term

and K~ and K 2 are constants

c' is the foulant concentration

M is the mass flow rate

x, is the foulant layer thickness at time t

r is the sheafing stress =fp u 2

where f is a so-called friction factor (see Chapter 5 for more detail)

By assuming that c' and M are constant which is reasonable for a steady state
flow heat exchanger, and xI the thickness, is very much less than the tube diameter
for deposition in a tube, it is possible to integrate Equation 4.12.
28 Fouling of Heat Exchangers

K~c'M(1-e-X~") (4.13)

The equation is similar to equation 4.11 in form with K~c'M a constant for a

given set of operating equations and is equivalent to Ry| in Equation 4.11. K 2r is

also a constant and equivalent to ti-
The initial rate of deposition and the asymptotic fouling resistance can be
obtained by putting x = 0 and dry = 0 in Equation 4.12.

-]t__o=KlC'M (4.14)

K~c'M is a constant for a constant set of operating conditions

The asymptotic thickness xroo= (4.15)

and is also constant for given conditions

Kern and Seaton [1959] developed the theory further using the Blasius
relationship, to make allowance for the change in flow area caused by the
deposition process.

i.e. where f _- Pur__r__

2 = K/Re..25 (416)

where K: is the Blasius constant

and Ap = 4 ~ (4.17)
dp2 g

where d~ is the inside diameter of the tube

I is the length of tube in the direction of flow

Under these conditions for turbulent flow

General Models of Fouling 29


Ap~ is the pressure drop at the asymptotic value of the foulant thickness

K~c' characterises the fouling qualities of the fluid and generally will remain
constant. Should practical data be available for one set of conditions, the thickness
of the asymptotic value of the fouling thickness at a different set of conditions may
be obtained from the ratio"

xI~,_ ~| ~ _ o., ~ ,

xe.~ - [ p M~ ] g - L~,J
L/~ J 4 1

The subscripts 1 and 2 refer to the two sets of conditions.

The model which Kern and Seaton proposed is an attempt to provide a

generalised equation for fouling; that is to say with no reference to the mechanism
of deposition. In general, it can be assumed that the mechanism of removal will be
similar in most situations since it will depend upon the conditions at the
fluid/foulant interface, although the cohesive strength of the foulant layer will be
different in different examples.
A generalised equation for asymptotic fouling for any mechanism based on the
"driving force" for deposit development has been proposed [Konak 1973]; the
"driving force" is suggested as the difference between the asymptotic fouling
resistance and the fouling resistance at time t., i.e. the driving force = (RI~- R~).
Assuming a power law function

dR~=K(RI~_R~). (4.20)

where K is a constant

n is an exponent

The final equation becomes

30 Fouling of Heat Exchangers

[I_ R~ _ I = K RI| t (4.21)


when n= 1


Both Equations 4.21 and 4.22 satisfy the boundary condition xI ~ 1 and t ~ oo

Equation 4.22 is a form of Equation 4.11 proposed by Kern and Seaton [ 1959]


Epstein [1988] presents a mathematical analysis of falling rate fouling as

exemplified by Curve B on Fig. 4.1. He assumes that

dRI is proportion to (some driving force)" (4.23)


i.e. proportional to q" (4.24)

where n is an exponent

q is the heat flux

For constant surface coefficient of heat transfer a, the heat flux is given by

q=UoAT=~ (4.25)

where Uo is the overall heat transfer coefficient for fouled conditions

R c is the resistance to heat transfer for clean conditions

and R c is 1 _ 1 when no fouling has occurred


where Uc is the overall heat transfer coefficient for unfouled conditions

General Models of Fouling 31

Assuming that the overall temperature difference remains constant with time a
combination of Equation 4.24 and 4.25 yields

dRy = K (4.26)
at +R:)"
where K is a constant

t-t dR R/ K
Integrating f ~ - f (4.27)
/=o at ~. (Rc )"

i.e. ( P c + R:)"+'- P c "+. = K (n - 1)t (4.28)

which yields a non-asymptotic falling rate curve R:vs t

An alternative way of writing Equation 4.28 is

1 1
TT n+l TT n+l
= Kt (4.29)
"D "C

The values of K and n that will be necessary to allow an assessment of fouling

to be made, will depend on the mechanism responsible for the fouling, e.g. whether
or not the fouling is caused by chemical reaction or mass transfer of particles.
Such data are not in general, readily available.


Attempts have been made to develop the generalised models that were devised
several decades ago. For instance Taborek et al [ 1972] took the general equation

= #n - #s (4.30)

where rn is the mass deposit

and attempted to write equations that could be the basis of a determination of r

and ~R- These authors recognised that a specific fouling mechanism must modify
the general equation, and proceeded to outline the form of the equations that might
be used to take account of this fact. Thus they introduced expressions that took
account of chemical reaction, mass transfer and settling. The removal term was
written in terms of fluid shear and the bond resistance in the deposit that affected
32 Fouling o f Heat Exchangers

removal. Despite these refinements however, these models still lei~ a great deal to
be assumed about the particular fouling problem under consideration.
The use of general models for fouling analysis has many attractions but with the
present state of knowledge and the severe limitations on the generation of suitable
data, their application to specific problems is unlikely to be significant at least in
the immediate future. The fact that the references to general models are roughly in
the period 1960 - 1975, with little published since that time is not without
significance. The recent initial work of Anjorin and Feidt [ 1992] on the analysis of
fouling using entropy concepts however, shows promise. The next two chapters
illustrate the complexities that are "hidden" in the terms ~z~and ~ As the work on
fouling develops, in the longer term, generalised relationships may assume more
The present development of general theories to the problem of fouling,
however, has the very definite advantage that it has drawn attention to the
underlying phenomena and seeks to make a logical analysis of the problem. The
undoubted worth of this approach is to emphasise the factors which need to be
considered in any development of a theory and model of any particular system.
Specific models that have been developed for particular mechanisms will be
discussed in the appropriate chapters.


Anjorin, M. and Feidt, M., 1992, Entropy analysis applied to fouling - a new
criteria, in: Bohnet, M., Bott, T.R., Karabelas, A.J., Pilavachi, P.A.,
S6m6ria, R. and Vidil, R., eds. Fouling Mechanisms Theoretical and
Practical Aspects. Editions Europ6ennes Thermique et Industrie, Paris, 69 -
Bott, T.R. and Walker, R.A., 1971, Fouling in heat transfer equipment. Chem.
Engr. No. 251,391 - 395.
Bott, T.R. and Walker, R.A., 1973, An approach to the prediction of fouling in
heat exchanger tubes from existing data. Trans. Inst. Chem. Engrs. 51, No.
2, 165.
Kern, D.O. and Seaton, R.E., 1959, A theoretical analysis of thermal surface
fouling. Brit. Chem. Eng. 14, No. 5, 258.
Konak, A.R., 1973. Prediction of fouling curves in heat transfer equipment. Trans.
Inst. Chem. Engrs. 51,377.
Epstein, N., 1981, in: Somerscales, E.F.C. and Knudsen, J.G. eds. Fouling of Heat
Transfer Equipment. Hemisphere Publishing Corp. Washington.
Taborek, J., Aoki, T., Ritter, R.B., Palen, J.W. and Knudsen, J.G., 1972,
Predictive methods for fouling behaviour. Chem. Eng. Prog. 68, No. 7, 69 -