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Reliance Engineering Associates Private Limited

Design Guide

P-EP-PL-068-0A

Layout & Piping Design


For Air coolers

0 05/03/01 Issued as design guide JK MGC

Rev Date Revision By Chkd Appr Client

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CONTENTS

1. Scope & Purpose ..........................................................................................................................3

2. Associated Specifications & Codes .............................................................................................3

3. References ....................................................................................................................................3

4. Description ...................................................................................................................................3

5. Air cooler Types...........................................................................................................................3

6. Construction .................................................................................................................................4

7. Layout...........................................................................................................................................5

8. Piping ...........................................................................................................................................6

9. Supports........................................................................................................................................7

10. Stress Analysis .............................................................................................................................7

11. List of figures .............................................................................................................................10

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1. Scope & Purpose


The scope of this design guide is to provide basic guidelines in deciding the layout, Piping,
Pipe supporting & stress analysis of Air coolers.

2. Associated Specifications & Codes


1. P-GS-PL-003 Piping design & Plant layout

2. P-SS-PL-008 Specification for Piping stress analysis

3. P-SS-PL-015 Pipe supports

4. P-SS-PL-019 Pipe support standards

5. P-EP-PL-065 Small bore Piping design guide

6. API 661 Air-cooled exchangers for general refinery service

3. References
Ed Bausbacher Roger hunt Process Plant Layout & Piping design

4. Description
Air cooler units are different from exchangers, where cooling medium used is circulating air
instead of liquid. Air cooler unit consists of fin tube bundles with header on both sides.
Supported to horizontally by a steel frame of structure. Air is circulated by multiblade
propeller type fans that provide forced or induced drafts. Dampers, baffles, bypasses &
heating coils also form part of the air coolers.

5. Air cooler Types


5.1. Air coolers also termed as “Fin fan coolers” are broadly classified as following

Forced draft type

Induced draft type

5.2. Forced draft type Air cooler is designed with tube bundles located on the
discharge side of the fan see fig 1

5.3. Induced draft type Air cooler is designed with tube bundles located on the
suction side of the fan see fig 2

5.4. Normally the type of cooler (forced or induced) is decided by process. It is


decided well ahead in any project. It is a general practice to decide upon same
type of cooler for the entire plant to maintain similarity.

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5.5. The majority of air-cooled exchangers is of forced draft construction. Forced


draft units are easier to manufacture and to maintain. The tube bundle is
mounted on top of the plenum, so it can be easily removed and replaced. The fan
shaft is short, since it does not have to extent from the drive unit through the
tube bundle and plenum to the fan, as in an induced draft design. Forced draft
units require slightly less horsepower since the fan are moving a lower volume
of air at the inlet than they would at the outlet. If the process fluid is very hot,
the cooling air is hot at the outlet. This could cause problems with some fans or
fan pitch actuators if the fan is exposed to very hot exhaust air. Since forced
draft coolers do not have the fans exposed to hot exhaust air, they are a better
choice in such cases.

5.6. However, induced draft units have some advantages, too. A common problem
with forced draft coolers is accidental warm air recirculation. This happens
when the hot exhaust air is pulled back in to the fans. Since a forced draft cooler
has a low air velocity at the exhaust from the bundle and a high velocity through
the fan, a low pressure area is created around the fan, causing the hot air to be
pulled over the side or end of the bay. For this same reason, there should never
be a small space between the bays of a bank of forced-draft cooler. Induced draft
cooler have a high exhaust air velocity through the top-mounted fan, and a lower
velocity into the face of the tube bundle below. This tends to minimize the
probability of accidental air recirculation. Also an induced draft plenum does
not have to support the tube bundle so some weight can often be saved in this
area.

6. Construction
6.1. As in other exchangers lines being cooled should flow down. So the medium to
be cooled enters the top nozzle & exits the bottom nozzle.

6.2. The tube bundle consists of the inlet & outlet header box, interconnecting tubes,
inlet & outlet nozzles. Typical arrangement of tube bundle with part numbers is
shown in fig 3

6.3. For odd pass arrangement the inlet nozzle are mounted on the top of the header
box, the outlet nozzle are at the opposite end & mounted on the bottom of
header box. See fig 4

6.4. For even pass arrangement the outlet nozzles are located at the same end as the
inlet nozzles. See fig 5

6.5. When the differential temperature between the inlet & outlet of multi pass
bundle exceed 200° F (111° C), U-tube construction, Split header box are
employed. Some typical split header box construction are shown in fig 6(a) &
6(b)

6.6. See fig 7(a) & 7 (b) for typical 3 dimensional views of the air cooler tube
bundles & plenum chamber supports on the inlet header box side.

6.7. Heating coils are provided as separate bundle to protect the process tube bundle
against freeze up wherever applicable. Normally these coils are single pass and
cover the entire width of the process bundle.
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7. Layout
7.1. In general Air coolers are located adjacent to the equipment that these serve for
piping flexibility & maintenance.

7.2. Most common installation of the air coolers is above the Pipe rack. Air cooler
also can be supported from grade, at the top level structures.

7.3. Typical layout of an overhead vapour condenser is shown in the fig 8. Referring
to the fig 8 inlet to the air coolers is from the overhead of column. The outlet is
collected in the accumulator. The layout shown is for an even pass cooler where
the outlet is in the same side of the inlet. The alternative arrangement shown in
the same fig (dotted) gives the layout where the cooler has the odd pass. Here
the column & the accumulator vessel are on the opposite side to reduce the
piping.

7.4. The tube bundles above the pipe rack can be supported by steel legs from the
vendor or by extending the pipe rack structural column to underside of the tube
bundle.

7.5. Fig 9(a) & 9(b) shows typical supporting & platform arrangements of Forced &
Induced draft air coolers.

7.6. Operating platforms all along the length of the Air cooler header box on both
sides is required for access to nozzles, instruments & valves. Also these
platforms are used for minor repairs /maintenance jobs in the tube bundle (tube
plugging) See fig 10

7.7. Platform with clear headroom below the Air coolers is required (See fig) for
maintenance of drivers. This platform can be either for full length of all the
coolers or travelling platform as shown in the fig 11 & 12.

7.8. In general Air coolers are not furnished with fixed handling devices for removal
of the tube bundles. Minor repairs are usually done with the Air coolers in place.
For major repairs, Air cooler sections are removed by mobile cranes as shown in
fig 13.

7.9. Fig 14 shows the space requirements for crane movement in case of major repair
in air cooler.

7.10. Fig 15(a) & 15(b) shows the diferent ways of supporting the air cooler related
platform & Piping from Pipe rack.

7.11. Following inputs are to be transferred to civil for the design of Pipe rack

7.11.1. Total weight of the Air cooler Equipment including the following

Weight of tube bundle filled with water

Weight of plenum chambers

Weight of hoods

Weight of fans, motors & fan covers


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Normally the above information is received from vendor.

7.11.2. Preliminary Piping loads (vertical, axial, transverse)

7.11.3. Extend of platforms required.

8. Piping
8.1. Piping must be routed in such a manner that it meets economy, flexibility,
support, operation & maintenance.

8.2. Piping at Air coolers is not routed over the tube bundles or fans and should be
kept clear of the designated for motor maintenance.

8.3. Piping for Air coolers specified for condensing fractionating tower overhead
must be routed in such a way that there is no liquid pocket between the top of
the tower and the Air cooler inlet. Ambient air temperature will cause some
liquid to condense in the line to the cooler. If there is a pocket in the line this
liquid will accumulate and slug the cooler resulting in possible damage to the
cell and cooler malfunction.

8.4. Condensed liquid vapour from the cooler (outlet) must also flow down (or
horizontally) to the accumulator.

8.5. When using humidified Air coolers or coil sheds where circulating water
systems are required, the weight of the unit plus water weight force them to be
grade mounted. However it should be ensured that the cooler are elevated
enough to permit condensed outflow to have down flow routing to the
accumulators.

8.6. Two phase flow to Air coolers (condensers) must be piped in such a way to
ensure equal distribution of liquid & vapour to each section.

8.7. Cascade piping fig 16 will be necessary on the inlet side to ensure that pressure
drop is equal on all inlet nozzles.

8.8. In case of liquid coolers (there is no two phase flow) the cascade piping is not
mandatory. Symmetrical rake piping fig 17 can be used in these cases.

8.9. Best arrangement for six or fewer cooler nozzles is header placed over the six
nozzles and entered at the centre so that flow must split to three nozzles in each
direction. Same design can be employed for outlet piping also.

8.10. For more than six nozzles, the single process line must split to feed two headers
capable of handling upto six nozzles each.

8.11. Up to 3 nozzles inlet can be fed with piping coming from one side. Outlet will
leave the header from the other side. Asymmetrical Piping fig 18

8.12. Normally the type of piping to be followed (Cascade or symmetrical) will be


represented in the P&Ids.

8.13. Symmetrical Rake piping explained above can be done in the following ways:
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8.13.1. Placing the common header over the Air cooler nozzles, so that feed gets
equally distributed on both sides fig 19. In this arrangement the forces &
moments exerted at the Air cooler nozzles will be more due to less flexibility.
So this arrangement is limited by the number of nozzles & design conditions.

8.13.2. Placing the common header in the structure above & away from the Air cooler
nozzle fig 20. In this case the piping from the common header to the individual
nozzles can be routed with sufficient flexibility. By this arrangement forces &
moments exerted at the Air cooler nozzles can be considerably reduced. The
inherent disadvantage in this arrangement is the cost involved in additional
support structure for supporting common header, more piping material &
fittings.

8.14. Decision on the type of piping arrangement should be taken considering the
above points and in consultation with stress Engineer. This decision should be
taken well ahead in a project as it affects the Pipe rack design.

8.15. When arrangement as explained in 8.13.2. is followed, it will require a break up


flanges near the nozzles for maintenance purposes.

8.16. Extreme care should be taken while doing piping for the Air coolers with split
header construction.

8.17. Piping designer should also take care of the “fixed” & “free” ends of the header
box, which is normally indicated in the vendor drawing fig 6(a) & 6(b). Also the
piping should be flexible enough to take up the displacements of the header box
free ends.

8.18. Vendor should be asked for the information regarding the displacement of the
header box free end, as it is the vital for flexibility analysis.

9. Supports
9.1. Separate supporting is not required when the header is placed directly over the
cooler nozzles.

9.2. A stop in the common header axis at the point where it bifurcates shall be
provided so that uniform expansion is allowed on both sides of the header.

9.3. When the header is supported by a separate structure, guides shall be provided
in alternative support. A stop as explained in 9.2. shall be provided. See fig 20

9.4. Further piping can be supported depending upon the layout & stress
requirements.

10. Stress Analysis


10.1. The following basic information along with the GA of Air cooler is required for
the stress Engineer for carrying out the analysis.

Weight of the Equipment

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Weight of the Equipment filled with water

Fixed & free ends of the header box

Displacement at the header box (free end).

10.2. Stress modelling

10.2.1. Stress modelling should be done upto the support point of the Air cooler on the
Fixed header side (irrespective inlet or outlet). The other end (free) shall be
modelled only upto the Air cooler nozzle feeding the displacement at the nozzle
node (displacement of header box free end is provided by the vendor). See
Appendix A for a typical example of Air cooler Equipment modelling.

10.2.2. On the fixed header side the piping is modelled upto the nozzle. Connect node
anchor is given to the Equipment flange & piping flange. The nozzle flange to
the support point of Equipment is modelled as a rigid element. +Y support with
guides is provided at the ends of the rigid elements (Air cooler supports).

10.2.3. Friction factor of 0.1 can be considered at the Air cooler support points, as there
will be Teflon pads between the Air cooler and the supporting structure.

10.2.4. The total weight of the Air cooler acts on the four supports of the Air cooler. So
when modelling the fixed header side ½ of the weight of the Air cooler will be
acting on the fixed header side. This can either be fed by equally distributing the
weight in the rigid elements or applying a force equal to ¼ of the total weight of
the cooler with water in each support points.

10.3. Following load cases are to be generated for Air cooler piping analysis,

10.3.1. Load cases for fixed header side

1 W+P1+T1 (Ope1)

2 W+P1+T2 (Ope2)

3 W+P1+T1+U1 (Ope3)

4 W+P1+T1+U2 (Ope4)

5 W+P1 (Sus1)

6 W+P2 (Sus2)

7 DS3-DS1 (Ope5)

8 DS4-DS1 (Ope6)

9 ST5+ST7 (Occ1)

10 ST5+ST8 (Occ2)

11 DS1-DS5 (Exp1)

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12 DS2-DS5 (Exp2)

10.3.2. The above load cases are applicable for Fixed header side where the Equipment
modelling is done. The above load cases are generated where the Equipment
load is distributed equally in the rigid equipment model. In case the weight of
the equipment is applied as force at the support points, than the force “F1” shall
be added to the first 6 cases of the above list.

10.3.3. Nozzle allowable check is to be done for cases 1, 2, 5 & 6.

10.3.4. Stress check is to be done for cases 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

10.3.5. Loads for the support design are to be taken from the worst of the cases 1, 2, 3,
4, 5, and 6. The same logic can be followed for other cases discussed below.

10.3.6. Load cases for the Free end header box with displacement shall be,

1 W+P1+T1+D1 (Ope1)

2 W+P1+T2+D2 (Ope2)

3 W+P1+T1+D1+U1 (Ope3)

4 W+P1+T1+D1+U2 (Ope4)

5 W+P1+D1 (Ope5)

6 W+P2+D2 (Ope6)

7 W+P1 (Sus1)

8 W+P2 (Sus2)

9 DS1-DS3 (Ope7)

10 DS1-DS4 (Ope8)

11 ST7+ST9 (Occ1)

12 ST7+ST10 (Occ2)

13 DS1-DS5 (Exp1)

14 DS2-DS6 (Exp2)

Where D1 & D2 are the displacements of header box to


corresponding temperature.

10.3.7. As the Air coolers are on the top of Pipe rack & Elevated structures, stresses due
to Pipe rack/structure sway has to be checked. Sway of L/200 in the positive &
negative direction perpendicular to Pipe rack axis as per the specification (P-SS-
PL00*) has to be applied at all support points of Piping & aircooler to the Pipe
rack by connect node modelling. Only stress check needs to be done in this case.
It is advised to create a separate model for sway check to reduce the

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complication in building up the load cases. Load cases for the sway check is as
follows:

1 W+P1+T1+D1 (Ope1)

2 W+P1+T1+D2 (Ope2)

3 W+P1+T1 (Ope3)

4 W+P1 (sus1)

5 W+P2 (Sus2)

6 DS1-DS3 (Ope4)

7 DS2-DS3 (Ope5)

8 ST4+ST6 (Occ1)

9 ST4+ST7 (Occ2)

10.3.8. In the above load case D1 is the sway in the positive direction (L/200) & D2 is
the sway in the negative direction.

10.4. Forces & Moments exerted at the nozzle node are to be checked against the
allowable tabulated in API 661. See fig 21 for the extract of the allowable as
listed in API 661.

11. List of figures


1 Forced Draft type Air coolers

2 Induced type Air coolers

3 Typical tube bundle

4 Odd pass arrangement

5 Even pass arrangement

6 Split header box construction

7 3 dimensional view of Air coolers

8 Typical Air cooler layout elevation

9 Typical support & platform arrangement

10 Header box platform

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11 Driver maintenance platform

12 Travelling driver maintenance platform

13 Air cooler removal

14 Maintenance area

15 Typical platform & piping support types

16 Cascade Piping

17 Symmetrical rake piping

18 Asymmetrical rake piping

19 Common header over Air cooler nozzles

20 Common header supported in a separate structure

21 API 661 nozzle allowable.

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