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Effective December 6, 2006, this report has been made publicly available in accordance
with Section 734.3(b)(3) and published in accordance with Section 734.7 of the U.S.
Export Administration Regulations. As a result of this publication, this report is subject to
only copyright protection and does not require any license agreement from EPRI. This
notice supersedes the export control restrictions and any proprietary licensed material
notices embedded in the document prior to publication.
EPRI Powering Progress
R E P O R T S U M M A R Y

Heat Exchangers: An Overview of


Maintenance and Operations
In the past, EPRI has conducted a voluminous amount of research on
heat exchangers. This document draws on this experience and pre-
sents the information applicable to the maintenance and operation of
heat exchangers, with an eye to providing tips on how to avoid the
most common problems. This document provides practical sugges-
tions for startup and shutdown, improvement of performance, prob-
lems and fixes with over capacity, failure mechanisms and their pre-
vention, and many other topics of interest to power plant personnel.
Because the majority of the heat exchangers in power plants are the
shell-and-tube type, these have been discussed in greater detail.

INTEREST CATEGORIES
BACKGROUND A large number of heat exchangers are used in any power
Maintenance practices generating facility. Heat exchangers can be of various designs and construction.
Nuclear plant operation and The effect of inefficient heat exchangers can range from being a slow economic
drain on the generation facility to completely shutting it down. This Tech Note is
maintenance
intended to provide an overview of the basic operation and maintenance needs
Engineering and technical of heat exchangers.
support
Training
OBJECTIVES
KEYWORDS • To provide information on the operational and maintenance requirements of
various types of heat exchangers used in power plants
Maintenance • To provide guidance in eliminating common errors in heat exchanger mainte-
Heat exchangers nance and operation
Heat transfer
Performance monitoring APPROACH A scope of work was prepared with input from a number of utility
personnel familiar with the maintenance and operational requirements of heat
exchangers. Based on this input, a draft document was developed and submit-
ted for review to a number of utility personnel and an independent heat ex-
changer manufacturer and servicing organization. Their comments were evalu-
ated and incorporated in this final document.

RESULTS This document presents information necessary for plant engineers


and maintenance staff to diagnose and possibly correct inefficient operation of
heat exchangers. Suggestions given here will be helpful in avoiding most of the
common maintenance and operational problems. This report is designed as an
aid for the maintenance and operation personnel who are already familiar with
the equipment and systems at their facility; therefore, detailed technical descrip-
tions of the various types of heat exchangers are not included here. References
have been made to other reports and documents for such specific information.
Also, information available in Codes and Standards has been referred to but is
not repeated here.

EPRI TR-106741s Electric Power Research Institute March 1997


PROJECT
WO 3814
EPRI Project Manager: Vic Varma
Nuclear Power Group
Contractor: Duke Engineering & Services

For further information on EPRI research programs, call


EPRI Technical Information Specialists (415) 855-2411.
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of
Maintenance and Operations

TR-106741

Final Report
March 1997

Prepared by
Duke Engineering & Services
215 Shuman Boulevard, Suite 172
Naperville, IL 60563

Principal Investigator:
Robert A. Tatara, Ph.D.

Prepared for
Nuclear Maintenance Applications Center
1300 Harris Boulevard
Charlotte, North Carolina 28262
Operated by
Electric Power Research Institute
3412 Hillview Avenue
Palo Alto, California 94304
EPRI Project Manager
Vic Varma
Nuclear Power Group
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ORDERING INFORMATION
Price: $10,000
Requests for copies of this report should be directed to the Nuclear Maintenance
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Electric Power Research Institute and EPRI are registered service marks of Electric
Power Research Institute, Inc. Copyright © 1997 Electric Power Research Institute, Inc.
All rights reserved.
EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

ABSTRACT

A large number of heat exchangers are used in every power-generating


facility. Heat exchangers can be of various designs and constructions. The
effect of inefficient heat exchangers can range from being a slow economic
drain on the generation facility to completely shutting it down. This docu-
ment is intended to provide an overview of basic operation and maintenance
needs of heat exchangers.
Most heat exchangers in power plants are the shell-and-tube type, which
have been discussed extensively in this report. Room coolers or plate-type
heat exchangers are only briefly mentioned, because the needs for the former
are too specific and there is a lack of industry experience with the latter.
This report is designed as an aid for maintenance and operation personnel
who are already familiar with the equipment and systems. Therefore, this
document does not include detailed technical descriptions of the various
types of heat exchangers. References have been made to other reports and
documents for highly specific topical areas, such as performance monitoring,
fouling, NDE testing, and so on. Also, information available in codes and
standards has been referred to but is not repeated here.

NMAC Tech Note iii


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

NMAC would like to acknowledge the contribution of the following indi-


viduals for providing key information and reviewing the draft prior to
publication.
George Wilhelmson ComEd
James Dedin ComEd, LaSalle
Charles Moerke Consumers Energy
Dennis Mason Duke Power Company
Charles Schroeder Petro-Chem Industries
Kenji Krzywosz EPRI NDE Center

NMAC Tech Note v


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

CONTENTS

1.0 INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................... 1

1.1 Scope ................................................................................................. 1

2.0 HEAT EXCHANGER PERFORMANCE ...................................................... 5

2.1 Startup ............................................................................................... 6

2.2 Reduced Thermal Performance ....................................................... 6

2.3 Excess Heat Exchanger Capacity ................................................... 7

2.4 Thermal Stresses .............................................................................. 9

2.5 Venting ............................................................................................... 9

2.6 Vibration ............................................................................................ 9

2.7 Shellside Inlet Nozzle Flow ............................................................ 11

2.8 Partition Plate Leaks....................................................................... 12

2.9 Expansion Joints ............................................................................ 13

2.10 Shutdown......................................................................................... 13

2.11 References ...................................................................................... 13

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3.0 FOULING MECHANISMS ......................................................................... 15

3.1 Sedimentation ................................................................................. 15

3.2 Crystallization ................................................................................. 15

3.3 Corrosion ......................................................................................... 16

3.4 Biofouling ........................................................................................ 17

3.5 References ...................................................................................... 17

4.0 FOULING AND EROSION CONTROL ..................................................... 19

4.1 References ...................................................................................... 20

5.0 GENERAL INSPECTION .......................................................................... 21

6.0 NONDESTRUCTIVE TESTING ................................................................. 25

6.1 Eddy Current Testing ...................................................................... 25

6.2 Ultrasonic Testing ........................................................................... 26

6.3 Radiography .................................................................................... 26

6.4 Liquid Penetrant Testing ................................................................ 27

6.5 Magnetic Particle Testing ............................................................... 27

6.6 Pressure Leak Testing .................................................................... 27


6.6.1 Tube Wall Leakage Detection ................................................ 27
6.6.2 Shellside Leakage Detection ................................................ 28
6.6.3 Tube-to-Tubesheet Joint Leakage Detection ......................... 28
6.6.4 Test Pressures ...................................................................... 29

6.7 References ...................................................................................... 29

7.0 FOULING IN-LINE ANALYSIS .................................................................. 31

7.1 EPRI Heat Exchanger Performance Monitoring ........................... 31


7.1.1 Heat Transfer Method ............................................................ 31
7.1.2 Temperature Monitoring Method ........................................... 32
7.1.3 Temperature Effectiveness Method ....................................... 32
7.1.4 Delta P Method ..................................................................... 32
7.1.5 Periodic Maintenance Method ............................................... 32

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7.2 ASME Inservice Performance Testing Of Heat Exchangers ........ 32


7.2.1 Functional Test Method ......................................................... 32
7.2.2 Heat Transfer Coefficient Test Method
(without Phase Change) ....................................................... 32
7.2.3 Heat Transfer Coefficient Test Method (with Condensation) . 32
7.2.4 Transient Test Method ........................................................... 33
7.2.5 Temperature Effectiveness Test Method ............................... 33
7.2.6 Batch Test Method ................................................................ 33
7.2.7 Temperature Difference Monitoring Method .......................... 33
7.2.8 Pressure Loss Monitoring Method ........................................ 33
7.2.9 Visual Inspection Monitoring Method .................................... 33
7.2.10 Parameter Trending ............................................................... 33

7.3 References ...................................................................................... 33

8.0 TUBE BUNDLE CLEANING ..................................................................... 35

8.1 Flushing ........................................................................................... 36

8.2 Tube Brushing ................................................................................. 36

8.3 Chemical Cleaning .......................................................................... 37

8.4 Cleaning Frequency ........................................................................ 37

8.5 References ...................................................................................... 37

9.0 STORAGE ................................................................................................. 39

10.0 GENERAL HEAT EXCHANGER REPAIR ................................................ 41

10.1 Tube-To-Tubesheet Joint Repair .................................................... 42


10.1.1 Rolling Repair ....................................................................... 43
10.1.2 Weld Repair .......................................................................... 43

10.2 Tubesheet Repair ............................................................................ 44


10.2.1 Epoxy Coating ....................................................................... 44
10.2.2 Weld Repair .......................................................................... 44

10.3 Tube Plugging ................................................................................. 44


10.3.1 Manual Plugs ........................................................................ 45
10.3.2 Welded Plugs ........................................................................ 46
10.3.3 Explosive Plugs ..................................................................... 46
10.3.4 Compression Plugs ............................................................... 46
10.3.5 Mechanical Plugs .................................................................. 46

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10.4 Tube Repair ..................................................................................... 46


10.4.1 Epoxy Coating ....................................................................... 46
10.4.2 Sleeves ................................................................................. 46
10.4.3 Tube Replacement ................................................................ 47

10.5 Shell Repair ..................................................................................... 48

10.6 Nozzle Repair .................................................................................. 49

10.7 Heads, Channels, And Gasket Joints ............................................ 49

10.8 Gasket Replacement ...................................................................... 51

10.9 References ...................................................................................... 51

11.0 PLATE HEAT EXCHANGERS .................................................................. 53

12.0 COMPACT HEAT EXCHANGERS ............................................................ 55

13.0 AIR COOLERS.......................................................................................... 57

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LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1 TEMA Heat Exchanger Nomenclature ........................................ 3

Figure 2 Typical Pass Partition Modifications .......................................... 8

Figure 3 Tube Failure Due to Impingement in a Component


Cooling Water Heat Exchanger ................................................. 10

Figure 4 Tube Bundle Impingement Shielding ....................................... 12

Figure 5a Stress Corrosion Cracks in a Low-Pressure Feedwater


Heater at the U-Bends ................................................................ 16

Figure 5b Pitting Corrosion Damage of Carbon Steel Tubing Due


to a Salt Water Leak .................................................................... 17

Figure 6 Typical Heat Exchanger Tube Degradation .............................. 22

Figure 7 Common Manual Tube Repair Plugs ......................................... 45

Figure 8 Sample Bolting Patterns for a Gasket Joint ............................. 50

Figure 9 Plate Heat Exchanger ................................................................. 54

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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1 Cooling System Design and Fouling Susceptibility ................ 15

Table 2 Guidelines for Selecting Heat Exchanger Materials ................ 20

Table 3 Tube Replacement Materials ..................................................... 47

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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

1
INTRODUCTION

Basic maintenance and operational aspects of power plant heat exchangers


are addressed in this Tech Note. Both thermal and mechanical issues are
presented. Topics involving heat exchanger performance include heat trans-
fer capacity, stresses, fouling and corrosion, and performance monitoring.
Vibration, leaks, nondestructive testing, cleaning, and repairs are examples of
mechanical issues dealt with here.

Mostly shell-and-tube exchangers are described here because they represent


1.1 Scope
the majority of heat exchangers installed, and a great deal of experience has
been achieved with this type of unit in power plants. Examples of heat
exchangers that would benefit from this information include:
• Component cooling water
• Fuel pool
• Lube oil
• Jacket water
• Stator cooler
• Water chiller
• Refrigerant condenser
• Water cleanup

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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

• Condensate
• Intercooler
• Aftercooler
• Feedwater heater
The Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association (TEMA) heat exchanger
nomenclature is used throughout and is presented in Figure 1.

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FRONT END REAR END


SHELL TYPES HEAD TYPES
STATIONARY HEAD TYPES

E L
A Fixed Tubesheet
One Pass Shell Like “A” Stationary Head

Channel &
Removable Cover
F M
Fixed Tubesheet
Two Pass Shell Like “B” Stationary Head
With Longitudinal Baffle

B
N
G
Fixed Tubesheet
Like “N” Stationary Head
Bonnet (Integral Cover) Split Flow

P
H
C Removable
Tube
Outside Packed Floating Head

Bundle
Only Double Split Flow

S
Channel Integral With
Tubesheet & Removable Cover
J Floating Head
With Backing Device

Divided Flow
T
N
Pull Through Floating Head
K
Channel Integral With
Tubesheet & Removable Cover
U
Kettle-Type Reboiler

U-Tube Bundle

D
X
W
Externally Sealed
Special High Pressure Closure Cross Flow Floating Tubesheet

Figure 1
TEMA Heat Exchanger Nomenclature
(Source: Standards of the Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association. Tubular Exchanger
Manufacturers Association, Inc., Tarrytown, NY 1988. Reproduced with permission.)

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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

Room coolers, plate heat exchangers, and other types of heat exchangers are
only briefly mentioned in this Tech Note. Operational and maintenance data
for these exchangers are either too specific in nature (room coolers) or lack
history in power plant applications (plate heat exchangers). Feedwater
heaters have been extensively documented elsewhere, and this Tech Note is
not a substitute for those documents. Feedwater heaters are treated in a
general fashion as any other shell-and-tube exchanger. Thus, issues unique to
a feedwater heater are outside the present scope of this document.
It is assumed that the reader of this Tech Note is experienced in the subject of
heat exchangers because the focus is hands-on practical experience data and
issue awareness. The reader must have enough subject knowledge to apply
the information on a case-by-case basis. Evaluate the generalized information
given here carefully before applying it to specific cases because heat ex-
changer designs and applications vary considerably even when restricted to
shell-and-tube units.
Thus, the intended audience is all personnel who are responsible for the
continued operation of power plant heat exchangers.
When appropriate, other documents and reports are referenced. They are
highly specific to subject areas, such as fouling or heat exchanger performance
monitoring, and are only briefly described here. Likewise, technical informa-
tion that exists in various codes and standards is not repeated here.

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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

2
HEAT EXCHANGER PERFORMANCE

The function of a heat exchanger is dictated by the system design require-


ments of temperature, pressure, and heat load. It is important that the ex-
changer be used as intended. Many factors can account for unexpected or
insufficient performance. This section focuses on common thermal issues that
can arise during the operation of an exchanger. The issues are:
• Startup
• Reduced thermal performance
• Excess heat exchanger capacity
• Thermal stresses
• Venting
• Vibration
• Shellside inlet nozzle flow
• Partition plate leaks
• Expansion joints
• Shutdown

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EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

For startup, circulate the cold fluid first, then add the hot fluid slowly up to
2.1 Startup
the desired rate. Always look to minimize thermal differentials. This is
critical for feedwater heaters and other steam-condensing heat exchangers
where elevated steam temperatures are encountered. Multiple temperature
cycles are particularly dangerous unless the exchanger, as part of its fatigue
analysis, is designed to handle that number of cycles in its lifetime. Repeated
pressure cycles can also damage a heat exchanger, and these effects are
computed by the fatigue analysis. These analyses are required for the Ameri-
can Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code
Section III and Section VIII, Division 2 vessels only. Thus, additional care
must be taken when ASME Section VIII, Division 1 heat exchangers are
exposed to temperature or pressure cycling.
Special attention must be observed with a differential-pressure-designed
exchanger. In the vast majority of cases, a heat exchanger is designed for the
tubeside and shellside absolute pressures, independent of the other side. On
the other hand, a differential-pressure-designed exchanger is constructed to
withstand only the differential tubeside-to-shellside pressure. Therefore, in an
operation of this type, attention must be given to maintaining the correct
pressure on both the tubeside and the shellside. This holds true for startup and
shutdown as well as during operation. Instructions from the manufacturer are
the best source of data for the safe operation of this type of exchanger.

When the heat exchanger is experiencing insufficient cooling without evi-


2.2 Reduced Thermal
Performance dence of unusual fouling, the initial inspection focuses on the system opera-
tion including flows, temperatures, and pressures. The flow alignments and
the piping to the heat exchanger are checked for correctness. Similarly,
pressures and temperatures are compared to procedures and technical
specifications such as the heat exchanger data sheet.
Other common factors that impede the ability of an exchanger to perform its
intended function are:
• Blocked or fouled tubes or nozzles
• Tube wall or tubesheet leaks
• Improper venting
• Incorrect or inadequate instrumentation (pressure, temperature, and so on)
• Temperature control valve failure
• Outside-of-design-specifications operation
• Damage from lay-up or shutdown: freezing, corrosion, and other types of
damage
Of course, a multitude of other factors might be responsible, but experience
has shown that this list includes the typical ones.

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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

Too much cooling capacity has mechanical and performance implications.


2.3 Excess Heat
Exchanger Excess cooling (or heating) of a fluid stream decreases (or increases) mean
Capacity metal temperatures of vessel components and the decrease (or increase) in
temperature can create unanticipated thermal differentials. Fixed tubesheet
designs are particularly susceptible. Excess cooling is a very common situa-
tion when cooling water is drawn from a river or lake during the winter.
Because the exchanger is designed and rated to perform under the worst
thermal conditions (highest cooling water temperature, hottest summer
operation), the winter condition can produce river or lake water as much as
40°F (4.4°C) cooler than design.
One fix is to bypass part of the process flow, to reduce the overall temperature
driving force and heat transfer coefficient, and then mix the streams back
together. Similarly, the cooling stream might be recirculated to increase its
temperature and limit exchanger performance. In one-pass designs, a reversal of
inlet and outlet connections to produce co-current, rather than counter-current,
operation might offer some relief. Of course such remedies involve major piping
modifications and are appropriate only when other fixes are not available.
The efficiency of a tube can be decreased with inserts and ferrules. The length of
the ferrule dictates how much heat transfer ability is lost. Of course, the gaps
between inserts and tube walls promote fouling. Intentionally introducing air or
noncondensibles to a heat exchanger is a risky option that has been used in
oversized condensing units. Because of the uncertainty of how much
noncondensible is needed, the procedure is based on trial and error and is often
not feasible because it can conflict with a plant’s operating or safety procedures.
In extreme cases, deliberate tube plugging is an option of last resort. In any
case, adequate thermal capacity must be ensured. Often a vendor has pro-
vided a tube plugging margin. If none exists, an analysis is made to estimate
the excess capacity. When fewer tubes are in operation, tubeside velocity
increases but should not exceed limits based upon the fluid and the tube
material. It must be accepted that a plugged tube is an excellent candidate for
eventual corrosion failure due to the stagnant conditions within.
Another possibility is seasonal head replacement, such as changing a four
pass to a two pass or using a removable partition plate to eliminate half the
tube bundle. One is restricted only by the tubesheet ligament width when
adding partitions. The partition plate can be curved to follow the intertube
spacing, and the end of the partition can be tapered down in thickness at the
gasket contact point. Figure 2 displays the tapering process to introduce
additional passes to an existing unit. The bending of the new partition may
compensate for the loss in strength due to any thickness reduction, but a
calculation is called for to qualify the design.

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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

Partition
Weld Tubesheet

Typical modifications to the tubesheet edge


of thick pass partitions

Gasket

Typical pass partition design for converting


single-pass channels and bonnets
to multipass flow

Figure 2
Typical Pass Partition Modifications

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TEMA E (fixed tubesheet) designs are susceptible to thermal stresses, espe-


2.4 Thermal Stresses
cially with temperature cycles. The tubes are held between the tubesheets
and have no opportunity to expand or contract. Because of this, limit the
difference between the inlet shellside and tubeside fluid temperatures to less
than 100°F (38°C) for safe operation. A U-tube bundle can better handle
temperature-induced thermal stresses, and the manufacturer can provide
these limits. In most cases the inner tubes, having the smallest bend radius,
experience the highest stresses.
The slots in the exchanger shell mounting legs accommodate expansion and
contraction of the shell. The bolts must have some looseness to allow the
exchanger legs to slide in the slots. Provisions for expansion of the nozzle
piping must be maintained.

Trapped air and improper venting severely impair an exchanger. Reduced


2.5 Venting
thermal capacity is usually the first indicator of air in the system. Under
normal conditions, the air is swept out or pushed toward a vent, as long as
the bulk velocity is high. If air remains trapped, a combination of multiple
starts and stops of the pump (to build and release pump head) and opening
and closing inlet and outlet valves to slug the trapped air pockets toward the
vent can be attempted.
Of course, plant procedures can exclude this option, especially for large,
primary exchangers. But for small equipment coolers, manipulating the
pumps can be a reasonable approach. In the worst case scenario, it can take
weeks or months to remove all air from a system. If air accumulation is
affecting liquid-to-liquid exchanger capacity, it usually indicates a large
amount of air. However, even a small amount of air drastically degrades a
condenser’s performance and can induce corrosion. This problem is espe-
cially noticeable for condensing steam and refrigerants.
In the special case of a vertical fixed-tube exchanger or for the stationary
tubesheet of a floating unit, the shellside can be completely vented only by
drilling through the tubesheet, passing out the tubesheet side or top. (Bottom
drainage of the shellside fluid requires similar treatment to the lower tubesheet.)

Vibration problems are common to heat exchanger operation. As an example,


2.6 Vibration
a U-tube bundle is a prime candidate for trouble at the U-bends. Vibration
damage is often a function of tube position in the bundle. A primary source
for allowable vibration information is available from the TEMA Standards.
There are several types of tube damage caused by vibration. If tubes collide
repeatedly, the tube walls show wear. Figure 3 displays tube failure from
impingement in a component cooling water heat exchanger. Another typical
failure is tube wall wear from contact with the baffle plate hole. It is feasible
to expand the portions of each tube at a baffle hole although the tube length

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EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

can be a limiting factor. A slight gap is retained to avoid locking the tube in
the baffle plate. Although stresses are introduced, they are equal to or less
than at the tube-to-tubesheet joints. The increase in tubeside pressure drop,
due to expansion/contraction of the flow, is negligible.

Figure 3
Tube Failure Due to Impingement in a Component
Cooling Water Heat Exchanger
Another vibration indicator is fatigue failure of the tube near its tubesheet
joint. Tube movement hardens the tube material and increases its susceptibility
to stress cracking. Simultaneously, residual rolling stresses are reduced, weak-
ening the tube-to-tubesheet joint. If a welded joint is present, the weld is
damaged and the cracks can continue through the tube and into the tubesheet.
Excessive noise during operation indicates shellside vortex shedding caused
by the fluid turbulence produced as the flow crosses a tube. The vortices
occur near the backside of the tube. The sounds can be loud, very unpleas-
ant, and intolerable to personnel in the area. Collisions between tubes and
baffles can also be loud enough to be heard easily. Vortex shedding, turbu-
lence, and tube vibration consume momentum or energy from the shellside
flow. Thus, an increase in pressure drop can be measured on the shellside
when maintaining the design flow rate. This can point to vibration problems
if other causes for the additional pressure drop are eliminated.
There are several preventive steps available. First, shellside velocity should
be reduced because vibration susceptibility increases when the actual flow
rate is greater than twice the design level. It is beneficial to avoid vibration
from external sources, such as pumps, compressors, motors, control valve
cycling, or any other cause, that can be transmitted by the fluid, supports, or
piping to the heat exchanger.

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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

Mechanical fixes involve forcing wedges between susceptible tubes (staking)


or wiring groups of tubes together to stiffen the tube bundle. This can require
cutting into the shell and performing an eventual weld patch repair if the
tube bundle is not removable.

At the inlet nozzle of the shellside, there is a high potential for vibration,
2.7 Shellside Inlet
Nozzle Flow erosion, and cavitation. If operation indicates vibration or if maintenance
locates tube damage in this region, several options exist. If excess thermal
capacity is present in the exchanger, then it is simple to just remove all the
tubes (and plug the tubesheet holes) in one or two rows at the inlet to increase
the area for the entering fluid. Alternatively, the susceptible tube rows are
replaced with heavy wall tubes or dummy rods at the inlet for two or three
rows (or columns). Of course, heat transfer area is lost in such a modification.
In a removable bundle, another method is to attach shields on the tubes in
the first two or three rows (or columns) at the inlet. It is possible to weld the
shields to the tubes. The shields need only span the length of the first baffle
spacing so that far less tube area is lost to heat transfer. Figure 4 provides an
example of shields in a tube bundle. The actual number and type of shields
vary with the application. One drawback is that the shield/tube interface is a
potential corrosion spot.

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EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

High alloy angles


Inlet nozzle

Shell

Flow

Tubes
Angle tube protectors
(protect against fluid impingement/erosion)

Figure 4
Tube Bundle Impingement Shielding

Reduced thermal performance might be due to leaks through or across


2.8 Partition Plate
Leaks partition plates that are rarely noticed because the exchanger’s capacity
decline is usually attributed to fouling. The distinction cannot be made until
a visual examination of the vessel is conducted. Even minor leakage has an
erosion and corrosion potential that increases with time. Normally, an
exchanger head has enough bolts to seal the peripheral flange area but might
lack the strength to seal the pass partition gasket area.

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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

To remedy this, add center studs to the partition plates so that enough force
is applied at the gasket ribs. Place the center studs evenly along the length of
the partitions. This involves drilling and tapping bolt holes or welding studs
to the plates. Drill the head to accommodate the extra bolting.
Tubesheet deflection is another common mode of partition failure, and it is
eliminated by proper bolting practices and the avoidance of thermal and
pressure stressing.
Due to pressure and thermal loading, especially when the loads are cyclical,
partition plate welds are prone to fatigue cracking. Feedwater heaters with
large thermal stresses and fluid temperature ranges are prime candidates.
When replacing or repairing partition plates, a full penetration weld is
superior to a fillet weld because a fillet weld repair is more susceptible to
corrosion attack and stress concentration.
Insufficient heat transfer with a TEMA F (longitudinal baffle) exchanger can
be the result of fluid bypass across the baffle. The fluid does not traverse both
shellside passes and instead bypasses between the shell and the baffle. The
integrity of the seal between the baffle and shell should be checked and
repaired.

A shellside expansion joint absorbs thermal stresses in a fixed tube bundle; it


2.9 Expansion Joints
works best on a small diameter shell. The vendor would be the best source
for information and experience. Thin-walled joints are fragile, damaged
readily, and often not repairable and must be replaced. Thick-walled joints
are only slightly more repairable.
In general, the root cause for the failure must be identified. Causes range
from fatigue to excessive pressure to erosion and are taken into account to
effect a lasting repair or replacement. There are several methods to replace an
expansion joint, but all are very costly efforts. At all times, protect a joint
from harm because even small dents and defects decrease its life.

At shutdown, reverse the startup procedure. Again, be aware of potential


2.10 Shutdown
thermal stresses and any differential-pressure operational requirements.

1. A Pictorial History of Tube Failures in Closed Feedwater Heaters. Electric


2.11 References
Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA: June 1983. RP-1928-1.
2. Standards of the Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association, Tubular
Exchanger Manufacturers Association, Inc., Tarrytown, New York, 1988.

NMAC Tech Note 13


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

3
FOULING MECHANISMS

Although the exact mechanisms and rates are not well understood, fouling
and corrosion can be classified into several groups. Numerous factors dictate
fouling rates and types. In all cases, even a thin film can significantly lower
the heat exchanger’s capacity. It must be kept in mind that the shear stress at
the tube wall controls fouling, not just the bulk velocity. The design of the
cooling system influences fouling susceptibility as given below.

Table 1
Cooling System Design and Fouling Susceptibility

Sedimentation Scaling Corrosion Biofouling


Closed Loop Low Low Low Low
Open Loop High Low Medium Medium

Sedimentation is the depositing of suspended matter in the heat exchanger. It


3.1 Sedimentation
varies according to flow rate and the geometry of the unit and its piping.
Sedimentation is controlled with filtration and by keeping fluid velocity high.

When the solubility limit of a suspension is exceeded, based on elevated tube


3.2 Crystallization
wall temperature, solids plate onto the tube wall, for example, calcium
carbonate fouling in condensers. When the solubility limit is exceeded by the
concentration of a solute, crystallization also occurs, for example, the evapo-

NMAC Tech Note 15


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

ration of water in a cooling tower with a concentration of impurities. Typi-


cally, the resulting scale deposits are hard to clean and call for strong chemi-
cals or mechanical means.

Corrosion is the formation of corrosion products by a chemical reaction that


3.3 Corrosion
depletes base material, for example, rust in carbon steel. The major types of
corrosion phenomena are:
• General thinning of the metal
• Local pitting
• Galvanic action between dissimilar metals such as carbon steel (CS) and
brass
• Erosion-corrosion (E/C), which is velocity and temperature dependent
• Stress that is the combination of stress and chloride attack, a common
failure mode of stainless steel
Stress corrosion failure can be from operation or from stresses built in during
manufacture. Figure 5a shows stress corrosion tube failures in a low-pressure
feedwater heater at the U-bends. The bends had not been stress relieved
during manufacture. An example of corrosion pitting damage is presented in
Figure 5b; a salt water leak corroded the carbon steel tubing.

Figure 5a
Stress Corrosion Cracks in a Low-Pressure Feedwater Heater
at the U-Bends

16 NMAC Tech Note


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

Figure 5b
Pitting Corrosion Damage of Carbon Steel Tubing Due to a Salt Water Leak

The growth and presence of bacteria, algae, mussels, and other biological
3.4 Biofouling
organisms in the fluid and exchanger components is a serious occurrence in
open cooling systems. The water condition and properties plus available
nutrients dictate the rate of fouling.

1. A Pictorial History of Tube Failures in Closed Feedwater Heaters. Electric


3.5 References
Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA: June 1983. RP-1928-1.
2. Service Water System Inspection Videos: Degradation Mechanism, Electric
Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA: 1992. VT-100388.

NMAC Tech Note 17


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

4
FOULING AND EROSION CONTROL

Steps to minimize biofouling, corrosion, and erosion degradation are varied.


With water as the fluid stream, the tubeside velocity should be maintained at
a minimum of three feet per second (0.9 m/sec)to reduce biofouling and
silting. A regular mechanical cleaning schedule is important since complete
cleaning is impossible because some organisms remain to grow again. Bio-
cides such as chlorine, hypobromus acid, hydrogen peroxide, and others can
be dispensed as part of an overall water treatment program. Environmental
restrictions and waste disposal issues must be taken into consideration in
most water treatment programs. Thus, non-chemical treatments such as
thermal shock may be preferable.
Cathodic protection minimizes galvanic reactions. The anodes are placed in
strategic locations, but it can take several attempts to locate the best posi-
tions. To install an anode, mount a coupling in the head or on a partition
plate, and screw in the anode cylinder. As a measure of success, the anode life
is trended; it might last months or years depending on the corrosion mecha-
nism, placement, water quality, and turbulence. Anodes must be periodically
inspected and replaced when depleted. Also, a protective coating, such as
paint or cladding, can minimize galvanic corrosion.
To retard fouling and prevent tube blockage, remove the corrosion products
by mechanical cleaning in combination with chemical inhibitors. It is impor-
tant to adhere to the vendor’s instructions when employing chemical addi-
tives. A strainer installed at the inlet to the heat exchanger filters debris and
particulate if there is a way to keep the strainer clean. Open cycle cooling
water is a ready source for a variety of debris and fouling.

NMAC Tech Note 19


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

As part of a monitoring program, fluid properties are sampled. Specific


testing checks water hardness, pH, and sediment in addition to measuring
chemical composition, corrosion products, suspended particles, and biologi-
cal contents. The data are compared to water quality standards for the plant.
Erosion is controlled through flow velocity and local geometry effects. A
common susceptible region is at a tube entrance. Sleeve inserts protect tube
joint erosion.
For severe degradation problems that are not easily corrected, heat ex-
changer materials are changed. Retubing with a metal more resistant to
degradation is a good practice. Stress corrosion cracking is minimized by
Inconel (nickel-based alloy) and AL-6XN (stainless steel). Titanium is a
highly resistant material for heat exchanger tubing, and its cost can be
justified at times.
If the existing tubesheet is to be reused with new tube material, care must be
taken in tube material selection to ensure galvanic compatibility between the
metals. Also, new tube materials, especially titanium, can result in the need
for additional vibration support within the tube bundle. As such, a full
evaluation of any tube material change should be made. General guidelines
for selection of common heat exchanger materials are given in Table 2.
Table 2
Guidelines for Selecting Heat Exchanger Materials

TYPE OF FAILURE COMPONENT MATERIAL


Brass CuNi Stainless
Erosion/Corrosion OK Better Best
Erosion OK Better Best
Stress Corrosion Susceptible Resistant Susceptible
Pitting OK Better Susceptible

1. Condenser Microbiofouling Control Handbook. Electric Power Research


4.1 References
Institute, Palo Alto, CA: April 1993. Report TR-102507.
2. Design Guidelines for Targeted Chlorination with Fixed Nozzles. Electric
Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA: August 1992. Report TR-101096.

20 NMAC Tech Note


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

5
GENERAL INSPECTION

A thorough visual inspection is the most powerful tool in a heat exchanger


maintenance program. The examination is not limited to exchanger compo-
nents. The fluid is monitored with the details of flow, temperature, operating
history, material performance, and other information.
Color photographs and surface contaminant sampling provide additional
information during inspection. A boroscope is helpful to examine inside
heads and tubes. More recently, video probe systems utilizing a small camera
attached to a flexible probe tip have been successfully used. The image is
transferred to a viewing monitor and can be documented in color on VHS
tape. The flexible nature of the probe allows for inspection of remote areas
and U-bends. This type of inspection identifies pitting, corrosion, corrosion
by-products, fouling, and debris and is similar in application to eddy current
testing. Figure 6 illustrates typical tube degradation that can be noted from
such an examination.

NMAC Tech Note 21


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

9
4 6 15 14
11
7
1

5
10
3 8 12
2 13

1. Inlet erosion and uniform wastage 7. Midspan fatigue cracks 13. Deposit-type pitting &
2. Cavitation and erosion pitting 8. Dealloying electromechanical
3. Debris or “clamshell” pits 9. Overrolling or freeze bulges corrosion filling
4. Support wear 10. Stress corrosion cracking 14. Overrolling at tubesheet
5. Fatigue cracks 11. Steam erosion 15. Manufacturing defects
6. Tube-to-tube wear 12. Corrosion at supports

Figure 6
Typical Heat Exchanger Tube Degradation
(Source: CenterLines, Vol. 7, No. 2, EPRI NDE Center, Charlotte, NC, 1996.)

In fixed tubesheet designs, shellside inspection is challenging due to the limited


access. Patches can be cut into the shell and then weld-repaired. U-bend areas
do not lend themselves to visual inspection even with removable bundles.
Visual inspections require quantitative reporting. When looking at major
components, isolated and shallow corrosion usually is not a worry if inac-
tive, but cracks are serious. In a similar manner, dents typically do not
present a problem, but cuts or gouges can, unless eliminated by grinding.
Improper grinding introduces stress concentrations.
A thorough visual examination includes major shell welds. All welds that have
been previously repaired, especially ones repaired multiple times, must be
checked. Weld patches in the shell or heads deserve attention as possible
corrosion points. Cladding and pass partition welds are examined for integrity.
The welds in shell saddles and supports are examined for cracks and corro-
sion from exposure to the surrounding environment, which can be more
corrosive than the fluids the exchanger carries. Likewise, the supports should
have expansion provisions such as slots in the base bolt holes; check that the
free end can slide to accommodate thermal expansion and contraction.
Nozzle attachments at the heads and the shell should be looked at. The
bending or twisting of a nozzle suggests excessive loading. Tangential
nozzles must be checked carefully because of the inherent difficulty in their
weld fit-up and attachment. If in doubt, for a critical attachment, a radio-
graphic examination is justified. Use temporary covers to seal the nozzle
opening after disconnecting it from the fluid piping.

22 NMAC Tech Note


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

Attention is given to the seals in floating head units of the TEMA P and W types.
These seals must be disassembled and maintained per the manufacturer’s
instructions. Excessive tightening causes extra load on the joint and restricts the
tubesheet movement, thus defeating the joint’s purpose. Because of this, a small
amount of packing fluid leakage is acceptable. The metal sealing surfaces ought
to be protected carefully when they are handled because small dents, scratches,
and scrapes will damage the sealing ability. A small defect when applied to a
high-pressure fluid containment is serious because fluid passing through the
defect at high velocity quickly damages the adjacent metal surfaces.
Fatigue cracks in the tubesheet ligaments can signify excessive tube vibration
that is transmitted to the tubesheet via the tube-to-tubesheet joint. It is critical
to identify the basis for tube-to-tubesheet joint failure (erosion, corrosion,
vibration, and others). A joint can be repaired only a few times before the
material is work-hardened or over-stressed.
Tie rods, baffles, and spacers are examined for damage, particularly for
corrosion from the fluid or from chemical cleaners, if used. Failure of these
components can shift and/or rotate the tube bundle and severely reduce the
exchanger capacity. The gaps between tie rods, baffles, and spacers are good
candidates for fouling and corrosion. Welding these components reduces the
degradation potential.

NMAC Tech Note 23


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

6
NONDESTRUCTIVE TESTING

Nondestructive evaluation (NDE) is a valuable technology to evaluate the


structural integrity of heat exchanger components. The results are used to
improve maintenance programs and trend vessel life expectancy. A short
summary of each NDE method is given here. For additional details, see the
document listed under References for this section.

In this process, a probe generates a magnetic field that induces a current in


6.1 Eddy Current
Testing the heat exchanger tube. Wall losses, cracks, and pits alter the eddy current in
proportion to the amount of deterioration, and the eddy current readings are
interpreted by the operator. The location, along the tube length, is also
determined. Eddy current is a fast and reliable technique for a tube bundle,
but clean tubes are required. Again, an experienced operator, who can find
cracks and distinguish inside diameter (ID) thinning from outside diameter
(OD) damage and determine if the deterioration is local or over a wide area,
is an asset. The equipment must be calibrated for the sizes and types of
defects expected. In general, for a U-tube bundle, only the straight tube
sections are examined by the eddy current method. A smaller probe is re-
quired to travel through the U-bend portions; however, sensitivity is reduced.
Best results are achieved when a baseline examination of the exchanger is
performed as soon as possible, minimally at five years from the startup of the
exchanger. The data that follow are trended to forecast the life of the heat
exchanger. The eddy current testing schedule is altered based on inspection

NMAC Tech Note 25


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

results and operating conditions. A heat exchanger with tube defects is


examined every outage while several years between inspections might be
appropriate for others.
Because sampling every tube in each exchanger is not practical, a 40%
sample is recommended for large heat exchangers (more than 300 tubes).
Units with less than 300 tubes or with a tube length less than ten feet should
have a 100% inspection rate.
Eddy current findings are reported on the basis of percentage of wall loss.
Conservatively, tube wall degradation of 40% indicates a need for plugging
or replacement. The wall loss mechanism and the percentage of loss are
taken into account to establish a repair criterion. For example, the wear rate
between a tube and a baffle increases with time as the baffle hole grows
larger. Thus, this wall loss criterion is less than that for a more conventional
(and predictable) OD corrosion. However, eddy current is not always reliable
for finding these defects because the baffle interferes with the signal.
Overall, a loss of 40% can be grounds for rejection, but this limit can be raised
with justification stemming from trending or experience with the exchanger
or others operating in a similar capacity. The actual criterion must be based
on the mechanical ratings of the pressure vessel and its life expectancy and
the individual plant plugging criteria must be based on defect growth,
measurement errors, and the damage mechanism. However, if any level of
cracking is determined, the tube must be replaced or plugged.

Ultrasonic testing (UT) utilizes very high frequency sound waves to find
6.2 Ultrasonic
Testing material boundaries and faults. Although the method is rapid, compared to
radiography, an experienced operator provides the best results. There is a
potential for incorrect interpretation of data in certain areas, for example, at
backing rings.
For tubing, ultrasonic inspection is considered a supplement to eddy current
testing. The principle drawback to ultrasonic inspection is the fact that the probe
takes about ten times longer to travel each tube. Also, a thorough tube cleaning
is necessary. Nevertheless, UT is a useful technique when eddy current data are
questionable, for example, wear at baffle holes, which is not easily detected by
eddy current. Thus, the recommendation is to use eddy current testing on the
tubing first and then use UT to reexamine problem areas. Recent developments
have made ultrasonic probes available to inspect U-bends.

Radiography is usually employed for vessels in safety-related systems with


6.3 Radiography
high design pressures. It is used when there is a demand for high quality
assurance. Radiography loses effectiveness with thin-wall components. Al-
though a reliable method, a qualified person is required to interpret the film.

26 NMAC Tech Note


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

A liquid penetrant dye exposes cracks and seams in the material being
6.4 Liquid Penetrant
Testing examined and its porosity. The cost for such an examination is low, and the
dye is easy to apply but is not effective on rough surfaces. Typical uses
involve nozzle attachment welds, welded or brazed tube-to-tubesheet joints,
and tubesheet ligaments.

Magnetic particle testing can discover shallow defects. Its common use is on
6.5 Magnetic Particle
Testing nozzle attachments where radiography is not possible.

To identify leaks throughout a heat exchanger or to verify the results of other


6.6 Pressure Leak
Testing nondestructive testing, leak checking by pressurizing various components
with air or water (hydro) as the test medium is an important tool. However, it
must be considered a supplement to other forms of examination because only
a completely ruptured pressure boundary is identified by leak testing under
moderate test pressures. Information such as percentage of tube wall loss is
not developed by pressure leak testing.
An alternative to pressurizing is to pull a vacuum and monitor its absolute
pressure. This is a superior method due to the fact that the vacuum is insensi-
tive to ambient conditions of the gas. Regardless, any pressure monitoring
requires anywhere from several hours to one day or more for a meaningful
test to observe a pressure change in the presence of small leaks. An accurate
pressure instrument is vital, as is an ambient temperature record.
A common problem with leak checking occurs when heat exchanger isolation
valves do not close completely. In this instance, proper leak checking is
impossible, and the defective valves must be replaced or bypassed.

6.6.1 Tube Wall Leakage Detection


For tube wall leaks, common industrial tube tester devices exist that pressurize
(100 psig or 51.7 cm of Hg) each tube, one at a time, and a gauge is monitored
for a drop in pressure. Such a device has a rubber seal, and about one minute
per tube is the time it takes for testing. One significant drawback is that tiny
leaks can go undetected. When searching for these smaller leaks, keep in mind
that in any test where the gas pressure is monitored over an extended time the
pressure can fluctuate several psi with changes in room temperature. Thus,
with small leaks, any positive pressure method can be undesirable.
In the particular case of cracking indications identified by eddy current
testing, an individual tube hydro test of suspect tubes is very useful in
determining the worth of a tube when making plugging evaluations. If an
identified cracking flaw does not propagate to failure when subjected to
hydro pressure under the tube yield strength, based on ASME Code allow-
able stresses, then the tube might warrant not plugging at that time. Only
personnel or contractors with experience in this type of hydro testing should

NMAC Tech Note 27


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

be utilized. Also, note that hydro testing is not effective in exposing near-
leaking tubes with only indications of pitting due to the high strength shoul-
dering effect around the pitted surfaces.
Alternatively, place gas pressure on the shellside; cork all the tubes on both
ends; and observe which corks pop out. As a precaution, a transparent,
protective shield must be fixed between the observer and the tubesheet to
avoid injury resulting from escaping corks or other plugs. For smaller leak-
ages, one tube end is blocked with a rubber stopper and the other end is
fitted with a single-hole stopper having a small section of flexible tubing
through it. The free end of the tubing is inserted into a vessel of water. If a
leak exists, the escaping gas is forced into the tubing and bubbles are visible
in the water vessel. The procedure is repeated for every tube. Obviously, this
is a time-consuming exercise and can take many minutes per tube or days to
complete the entire bundle; thus, it is advised only when other methods of
detection have failed to disclose the leaks.

6.6.2 Shellside Leakage Detection


For shellside leaks, pressure is applied and a bubble solution sprayed on any
suspect areas including major seams such as the tubesheet-to-shell weld. An
improvement is to add a tracer gas with a detector. Tracer gases are dictated
by the particular detector utilized. Upon pressurization, the exterior of the
exchanger is examined. Or, the exchanger can be evacuated and the tracer
drawn from outside into the unit where a leak can be detected. Note that
some detectors (halogen-type) react to chemicals naturally present in the heat
exchanger (fluids, contaminants, and so on) and can yield false readings. It
might be possible to calibrate out the false signals; however, in some systems,
an inert tracer gas (helium, for example) must be chosen.
For refrigerant heat exchangers, R22 is commonly used for leak detection. Due
to environmental restrictions, a minimal amount of R22 must be mixed with an
inert gas, usually nitrogen, for the leak check. Under this circumstance, it is not
necessary to recover the R22. Consult the EPA Section 608 regulations of the
1990 Clean Air Act Amendments before venting gas to the atmosphere.

6.6.3 Tube-to-Tubesheet Joint Leakage Detection


To detect tube joint leaks, fill the shellside with water under pressure with
the heads off, and view the tubesheets for leakage of water. An alternative is
to pressurize the shellside with gas and brush a bubble solution on the joints;
small bubbles identify leaks that can be repaired. Unfortunately, a joint
leaking into the shellside from the tubeside is not easily seen or detected
because of the limited access to the shellside of most exchangers, especially
fixed tubesheet designs.

28 NMAC Tech Note


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

6.6.4 Test Pressures


It is best to leak check with water, when practical. With compressed gas (pneu-
matic test), keep in mind the high amount of stored energy in compressed gas
and the dangers inherent in this method. When testing, excessive gas pressures
are unnecessary; 5 to 50 psig (2.6 to 26.0 cm of Hg) is usually adequate. Another
guideline would be 15% of design pressure or 1.5 times the operating pressure,
up to 50 psig (26.0 cm of Hg). When pressurizing the tubeside, all existing tube
plugs must be securely in place; otherwise, the plugs can be expelled with
potential harm to personnel and damage to equipment.
Nevertheless, always stay below the design rating of the unit. Never use 1.5
times the design pressure as given in the ASME Section VIII Code. This is
intended only for new construction.
Another potential failure encountered while pressure testing is brittle frac-
ture. To avoid this phenomenon, never pressure test cold metal. ASME
Section VIII defines acceptable temperatures, but, in general, if it feels cold to
the touch, it is too cold to test.

1. Balance-of-Plant Heat Exchanger Condition Assessment Guidelines. Electric


6.7 References
Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA: July 1992. Report TR-100385.

NMAC Tech Note 29


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

7
FOULING IN-LINE ANALYSIS

Guidelines are available to assist the heat exchanger user in determining the
extent of fouling or degradation. By using these industry guidelines, cleaning
and maintenance tasks can be better assigned. The number of units to be
tested can be reduced by observing heat exchangers that have similar duties
and flow conditions.

The EPRI Heat Exchanger Performance Monitoring Guidelines (EPRI NP-7552)


7.1 EPRI Heat
Exchanger lists several methods to evaluate the in-line heat transferring ability of heat
Performance exchangers. That document presents the details of each method and explains
Monitoring the strengths and weaknesses of each one.

7.1.1 Heat Transfer Method


This is a reliable methodology because it is a direct test of heat transfer ability.
The specific acceptance criterion can vary depending on the item of interest:
temperature, fouling, and so on. It is important to match heat loads on both
tubeside and shellside to verify an energy balance. A potential drawback is the
necessity of accurate instrumentation (0.1°F and 5% resolutions for tempera-
ture and flow, respectively). Further, the method is not easily applied to air
coolers where air flow and humidity are difficult to ascertain.

NMAC Tech Note 31


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

7.1.2 Temperature Monitoring Method


The objective in this method is to trend a pertinent temperature such as room
air, lube oil, and so on. It is limited in that all other variables must hold
constant; otherwise, one cannot separate other effects from the results.

7.1.3 Temperature Effectiveness Method


A restriction exists that flow rates must be at their design levels. Thus, the
overall heat transfer coefficient can be taken as constant between the test and
design runs. This methodology is easy to apply but must be used with
conservatism because of its implicit assumptions.

7.1.4 Delta P Method


Unfortunately, this is only an indicator of gross fouling conditions because
the required sensitivity of measurements typically does not exist in industrial
settings. Specifically, thin fouling layers can severely degrade heat exchange;
it is most challenging to measure small pressure drop changes and then
make a determination regarding heat transfer ability.

7.1.5 Periodic Maintenance Method


In this case, cleaning and inspections are based upon experience, judgment,
and trending. This method works best in conjunction with other quantitative
methods. Often it remains the sole option when instrumentation is lacking,
as well as flow and temperature data. Similar to the heat transfer method,
periodic maintenance gives a direct indication or measurement of fouling.

In addition to the EPRI report, various heat exchanger monitoring techniques


7.2 ASME Inservice
Performance are presented in ASME OM-S/G-1994, Standards and Guides for Operation and
Testing Of Heat Maintenance of Nuclear Power Plants, April 1995. The list of available tech-
Exchangers niques is summarized here.

7.2.1 Functional Test Method


A temperature is measured and compared to the acceptance criterion. An
advantage to this method is that the parameter of interest is directly measured.

7.2.2 Heat Transfer Coefficient Test Method (without Phase Change)


The fouling is computed directly based on conventional heat transfer analy-
sis. An assumption is that the shellside flow is kept in the same flow regime.

7.2.3 Heat Transfer Coefficient Test Method (with Condensation)


This method is similar in principle to the previous one but calls for addi-
tional data, such as humidity. Room coolers would be candidates for its use.

32 NMAC Tech Note


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7.2.4 Transient Test Method


This might be the only option when steady-state conditions are impossible to
maintain. The idea is to apply a heat load and watch the temperature response.

7.2.5 Temperature Effectiveness Test Method


Only single-phase fluid streams are acceptable for monitoring when applying
the temperature effectiveness method. The result is a projected temperature
that is compared to its acceptance criterion.

7.2.6 Batch Test Method


This is essentially a transient test where batch heat is removed from a reser-
voir of fluid. From this information, the overall heat transfer coefficient is
computed.

7.2.7 Temperature Difference Monitoring Method


The relationship between inlet cooling fluid and outlet process fluid tempera-
tures is determined. Like others, this calculation is predicated upon an
understanding of the effects of changes in flow rates, heat loads, and other
parameters.

7.2.8 Pressure Loss Monitoring Method


Here, trending of the measured pressure drop becomes an indicator of the
onset of flow blockage. Only significant heat exchanger performance deterio-
ration is discovered by the pressure loss monitoring method.

7.2.9 Visual Inspection Monitoring Method


This method offers a direct view of the heat exchanger. Therefore, it repre-
sents a reliable assessment of exchanger conditions.

7.2.10 Parameter Trending


From other test data, the fouling rate is projected. A minimum of three sets of
test data is needed to establish the relationship.

1. Heat Exchanger Performance Monitoring Guidelines, Electric Power Research


7.3 References
Institute, Palo Alto, CA: December 1991. Report NP-7552.
2. Standards and Guides for Operation and Maintenance of Nuclear Power Plants,
ASME OM-S/G-1994, April 1995.

NMAC Tech Note 33


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

8
TUBE BUNDLE CLEANING

U-tubes and finned tubing are difficult to clean, but plain, straight tubes are
cleanable by mechanical, hydraulic (hydroblasting), and chemical means and
can be inspected throughout their entire length. On the shellside, a large, 90-
degree tube pitch facilitates cleaning. A 1/4" (6.5 mm) wide space between
tubes must be present for a hydraulic cleaning of a tube bundle. Otherwise,
the pressurized water cannot penetrate the bundle’s interior. For this reason,
a triangular tube pitch is harder to clean than a square one. A hydroblasting
pressure of 8,000–10,000 psi (550-690 Bars) is typical but can range up to
18,000 psi (1240 Bars). For fixed tubesheets, chemical cleaning is usually the
only alternative unless generous clean-out ports are provided. In the instance
of floating head units, the bundle can be chemically cleaned while in the
shell. Or the bundle can be removed and washed mechanically, chemically, or
hydraulically as long as the tube pitch provides a minimum of 1/4" (6.5 mm)
empty spacing.
However, do consider the thermal stresses and potential detrimental effects
on exchanger components from a hot steam hydraulic cleaning. The possible
effects include tubesheet bending and tube bowing. Similar guidance holds
for U-tubes with the added complication of access to tube surface within the
U-bends. Due to the large bundle-to-shell clearance and the resulting low
velocity in this region, TEMA T shell sides are susceptible to fouling and may
need frequent attention. This drawback is somewhat tempered by the fact
that the bundle is easily removed.

NMAC Tech Note 35


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

In all bundle installations and removals, adhere to the vendor instructions


for pulling, pushing, and supporting; otherwise, the bundle or shell can be
damaged. Trouble is encountered when the bundle sticks during loading or
removing at which time great care must be taken. Damage takes place from
excessive force used, from striking the shell or tubesheet with a sledgeham-
mer, improper lifting, and so on.

It is desirable to clean a heat exchanger without disassembly. Often cleaning


8.1 Flushing
is achieved by flushing the unit. Flushing is performed on the shellside or
tubeside when water is the system fluid. For adequate velocity and turbu-
lence, flush with 5 to 10 ft./sec. (1.5 to 3.0 m/sec) water on the tubeside. Less
velocity is required on the shellside. (The minimum would be 1.25 times
design flow for either tubeside or shellside.) When cleaning a series of
exchangers in the same system, begin at the coolers furthest from the pumps
and at the highest elevation, and work toward the pumps in the flushing
program. In this way, debris has an opportunity to exit the system immedi-
ately through clean piping, instead of building up as would occur if flushing
began at the pumps. For persistent deposits, a back flush with water and
compressed air or nitrogen (50 psig or 260 cm of HG, minimum) is effective;
the gas provides turbulence to scrub the heat transfer surfaces.

Automatic cleaning machines, down to 1/2" (12.0 mm) tube OD, are easily
8.2 Tube Brushing
obtained, but smaller tubes can call for manual brushing. It is recommended
to remove each head at both ends because it is difficult to fully flush out
debris with one end closed.
For brushing soft (copper) tubes, exercise caution when using hard, coated
brushes or cleaning balls. Additionally, observe caution while cleaning brass
tubes with metal tube scrapers. Scratches in the tube wall could result from
the metal scrapers, and these scratches can tend to preferentially corrode due
to an upset in the tubing surface oxide protective layer, leading to a pitting
corrosion concern. In general, the choice of brush is dependent on the fouling
encountered and the tube material. When in doubt, first try the procedure on
a sample tube, outside the exchanger, and verify that base metal is not being
damaged or removed by the proposed procedure. Tube brushing is limited to
straight tubing. U-bends are not cleaned by mechanical brushing.
Also, when using individually shot tube brush cleaners, an apparent prob-
lem exists in ensuring foreign material exclusion. Accountability of the
brushes or balls must be maintained to ensure that no brush cleaners are left
in tubes that could result in adverse system operational problems due to
foreign objects in the system. This particular problem is more sensitive when
accounting for large numbers of brush cleaners in exchangers that contain
thousands of tubes. One solution to this problem is to use a mechanically
rotated brush attached to a cable that is fed down each tube. Hand feeding

36 NMAC Tech Note


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

the cable and brush through the tubes can be time consuming. But low cost
equipment is available that automatically feeds a cable-attached rotating
brush down through a tube and back at an efficient speed.

If flushing and mechanical means are not sufficient, chemical cleaning


8.3 Chemical
Cleaning becomes an option. This is especially true for maintenance on the shellside,
which cannot be brush cleaned. It is imperative to follow the vendor instruc-
tions when employing a chemical cleaner. The use of a pulsing pump is
helpful due to the agitation in the heat exchanger, which scrubs the surfaces
and facilitates cleaning. Always locate a filter or strainer to collect the debris
from a cleaning process; exchangers are collection points for debris, and
broken-off corrosion pieces can lodge in tubes or other system components.
Proper metal passivation is required after cleaning. When considering
chemical methods, environmental and waste disposal issues are important
and add significant costs to the processes.
Certain vendors offer on-site tube bundle chemical cleaning with mobile
trailer vats that completely contain the cleaning apparatus hardware and
resulting solution waste. These mobile units are fitted with pumps, heaters,
spray nozzles, and all other necessary cleaning equipment to ensure uniform,
thorough cleaning of exposed tube surfaces.

A cleaning schedule is based upon the specific application and operating


8.4 Cleaning
Frequency experience of the plant. Each exchanger might have its own maintenance
schedule. Fouling can be trended, but it is speculative to project too far in the
future because fouling mechanisms and rates are not well understood. Of
course, any maintenance is coordinated with outages. Documentation of
conditions before and after cleaning serves as a guide to future maintenance
and performance evaluation.
More attention is given to intermittent-use coolers. These are more suscep-
tible to fouling and corrosion. The optimal solution is to rotate all the ex-
changers of a particular system during actual operation. However, if this is
not practical, a flushing or cleaning schedule is based upon the fouling
tendency of the unit and system. As a set of recommendations, an aggressive
schedule is weekly flushing, a routine schedule is monthly flushing, and a
minimum schedule is yearly cleaning.

1. ABCs of Condenser Technology, Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto,


8.5 References
CA: August 1994. Report TR-104512.
2. Guidelines for Chemical Cleaning of Fossil-Fueled Steam-Generating Equip-
ment, Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA: June 1993. Report
TR-102401.

NMAC Tech Note 37


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

9
STORAGE

At times it is necessary to put the exchanger out of service or in storage. It is


vital to attend to proper storage (or lay-up) because corrosion damage can
ruin a unit in a relatively short period of time. A suitable plan involves
draining and drying the unit thoroughly by passing warm air or nitrogen
through it.
The goal is to drain and completely dry the unit for shutdown as quickly as
possible. Even only one day of stagnation can initiate fouling. For complete
drainage, it often is necessary to tilt the exchanger at least five degrees. Even
after opening the drain fittings, some water can remain either because the
tubes are slightly bowed or due to surface tension forces. On the tubeside, a
head should be removed for effective draining. Complete draining leads to
easier drying of the exchanger. Excess water can be blown out of the unit
with pressurized air or nitrogen. On the tubeside, each tube must be indi-
vidually blown out.
For lengthy inactive periods, the heat exchanger ought to be stored with a
nitrogen blanket under slight pressure, approximately 5 psig (26 cm of Hg).
The pressure is monitored and maintained during the lay-up or storage. A
desiccant is helpful. It is possible to lay-up a heat exchanger full of treated
water (with no air bubbles), but heat exchangers should never be stored
drained and wet while exposed to air.

NMAC Tech Note 39


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

10
GENERAL HEAT EXCHANGER REPAIR

The ASME “U” stamp covers only new construction; the National Board
Inspection Code (NBIC) is recognized by most jurisdictions as the document
to follow for repairs and alterations of pressure vessels, including heat
exchangers. Any repairs or alterations are under the jurisdiction of the
locality that is ultimately responsible. The National Board is not responsible
for work. It acts on behalf of ASME and promotes and sets uniformity of
rules, trains and certifies inspectors, and registers pressure vessels.
The “R” (for Section VIII vessels) or “NR” (Section III heat exchangers) stamp
is usually necessary for alterations and for repairs when welding is per-
formed but always consult with the Authorized Inspector (AI). If welding is
not done in the course of an exchanger repair, the repair facility does not
need to hold approved ASME Code stamps. Thus, it is wise to discuss the
work plan with the AI prior to initiating changes. The construction repair
must comply with the edition of the ASME Code at the time of the original
construction, or any later edition up to the current one if the design features
are applicable to later editions. The inspectors recognize that it is not always
practical to adhere 100% to the ASME Code; thus, alternate methods can be
substituted. (A postweld heat treatment is an example of a technique that
might not be feasible for an existing heat exchanger under repair.) All weld-
ing must comply with ASME Section IX and plant welding procedures (a
common procedure regarding the use of backing strips, which are undesir-
able from a corrosion viewpoint).

NMAC Tech Note 41


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

Repairs and alterations can be conveniently grouped into three categories:


major repair, minor repair, and alteration. For a major repair, a like-for-like
(or better) replacement component is selected. The original ASME-stamped
design conditions remain. Examples of this type of work include:
• Replacement involving welding of a major component such as a head,
shell, tubesheet, and so on
• Replacement of a large nozzle or port similar to the nozzles already on
the unit
• Weld repair of flanges
• Weld repair of major seams in shells and heads
Depending on the instructions of the AI, a calculation package might not be
called for, but a repair report is issued. In addition, the hydrostatic pressure test
might be waived by the AI depending on the scope and extent of work done.
A minor (routine) repair is the same as a major one without a vessel “R” stamp-
ing, but a repair report (R-1 form) must be issued. The AI must concur that the
repair is of a routine nature. Selected examples of this type of repair are:
• Weld build-up in wasted regions
• Weld addition of a corrosion-resistant overlay
• Retubing with seal welds, using the same type of tube
• Small nozzle or flange replacement similar to those already on the unit
• Weld seal of gauge openings or drains
• Non-pressure parts such as partition plates, legs, and so on
Finally, an alteration constitutes a rerating at a higher pressure and/or
temperature. A rerating at a lower temperature can also be an alteration if
impact testing now comes into play. Instances of an alteration are:
• Replacement components or materials with lower stress or strength
properties
• Nozzle replacement or addition where the size is smaller or larger than
existing ones and with new reinforcement computations
A calculation package must be completed. The hydrostatic pressure test must
take place, although the AI might avoid going to 1.5 times the design due to
the presence of relief devices and other external components that might be
unable to sustain such a pressure.

Most joint problems occur on the inside face (shellside) of the tubesheet
10.1 Tube-To-
Tubesheet where the bending stresses are greatest. Tube joints that are only welded can
Joint Repair suffer from corrosion in the gaps between the tube walls and tubesheet holes.
At the same time, these bonds can crack from the normal expansion and

42 NMAC Tech Note


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

contraction experienced by the tubesheet due to pressure loading and/or


temperature differential.
Access to the tubesheet is better when the entire head is removed instead of
instances where the head or channel is welded to the tubesheet. In this case,
the clearance is minimized at the outermost tubes (the ones near the head or
channel wall). Specifically, when using a TEMA P (outside packed head)
design, roller clearance at the outermost tubes in the bundle at the floating
end is minimal and can pose rerolling problems. TEMA S (floating head) heat
exchangers are particularly awkward to inspect and maintain due to the fact
that both the shell and tubesheet covers must be removed to access the
tubesheet. TEMA A, C, and N head constructions have favorable tube access
without unbolting nozzles.

10.1.1 Rolling Repair


Tubesheet leaks can be repaired by tube rolling unless the joint is already
overrolled, which is detected by measuring the wall thinning. For original
rolling conditions, the appropriate formula is based on tubesheet hole, tube
wall thickness, and tube ID:

100 x [final ID - (initial ID + clearance)]


% wall reduction =
2 x measured unrolled wall thickness

where,
ID = Measured tube inner diameter
OD = Measured tube outer diameter
Clearance = (Measured tubesheet hole diameter - OD)
Commonly, wall reduction varies from 3–12%. Overrolling can distort the
tubesheet and ligaments, produce high residual stresses (increasing the chance
of stress corrosion cracking), and work-harden materials in the tube ends,
while underrolling fails to develop sufficient joint strength and joint seal.
From the above equation, the original percent wall reduction is computed.
The rerolling should cause a percent wall reduction equal to 1.1–1.2 times the
original value. (As an example, if the original wall reduction was 10%, the
rerolling should be set at 11–12%.)
The roller is set for the correct ID from adjustments through rolling the first few
joints. Once tooling is set, it is a very routine procedure. Factors such as im-
proper rolling torque and sequence can damage a tubesheet. Thus, it follows
that only qualified, experienced personnel should perform tube rolling.

10.1.2 Weld Repair


Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) weld repairs pose a problem because
impurities between the tube wall and tubesheet are drawn out and contami-

NMAC Tech Note 43


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

nate the weld with porosity, primarily when the tubes are already rolled.
Only a complete cleaning of the area and practicing the procedure on test
samples afford a chance for quality weld seals. The finished welds cannot
interfere with any gasket or pass partition. In most cases, it is best to weld
first and then roll to avoid trapping weld gases.
Along the same lines, braze repairs are formidable because it is difficult to
evenly heat the area of repair. The success rate is low with the best chances
on brass and copper construction.

A tubesheet can be degraded by erosion or corrosion and usually suffers a


10.2 Tubesheet Repair
material loss. Other circumstances, such as thermal fatigue or tube vibration,
lead to the more serious problem of cracking.

10.2.1 Epoxy Coating


Special epoxy coatings are applied to wasted tubesheet and tube-to-
tubesheet joint areas and have proven to be reliable. One must prepare the
surface for good epoxy contact by sandblasting. The coating is brushed on
and allowed to dry, and the tube inlets are chamfered. During the coating,
the tube inlets can be protected with corks. It is important to ensure smooth
entry of fluid into the tubes; a gap will invite sediment and corrosion while
protrusion past the tubesheet causes local velocity jets that can erode
tubesheet material.
A coating typically is 3/16–1/4" (4.8–6.5 mm) in thickness. (Thinner layers do
not last long.) The wear is good, although the layer might crack over time,
but epoxy coating generally represents an economical solution for several
years of life extension. Some strength is added to the tube joint, but no credit
is taken in calculation for the structural strength of the tubesheet thickness.
Additional light brushing of epoxy can take place on a seasonal basis to
freshen the coating. Care must be taken not to scrub the coating with a wire
brush, scraper, or strong chemicals. Instead, clean with water and a soft
brush, sponge, or rag, when required.

10.2.2 Weld Repair


Weld repairs are common and practical with good cleaning and grinding
techniques. Success is verified by liquid penetrant examination. For corrosion
prevention, a metal cladding overlay such as stainless steel, about 1/4" (6.5
mm) thick, can be used.

Unless specified on the heat exchanger data sheet, obtained from the manu-
10.3 Tube Plugging
facturer, calculated, or stated in the TEMA guideline, no tube plugging
margin can be assumed. The TEMA value allows plugging of 1% of the tubes
or two tubes, whichever is greater. It is valid only for large tube bundles.
When a tube plugging limit has been justified, a suitable plugging method
must be selected.

44 NMAC Tech Note


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

It is useful to provide for a tube vent by ensuring that the tube has a hole to
relieve pressure after plugging in order to prevent pressure build-up in the
tube. An unexpected pressure build-up can force the plug out unless the plug
is welded. Excess plug material can be cut and removed, if desired.
A record of tube plugging and replacement is an asset to long-term mainte-
nance and repair. A list of relevant data includes:
• Date of repair
• Tube location
• Longitudinal position of damage (if known)
• Circumferential position of damage (if known)
• Root cause of failure (reason for plugging)
• Physical condition of tube and its neighbors
• Any NDE test results

10.3.1 Manual Plugs


Brass or steel plugs are hammered into place. Choose a tapered plug with the
larger end 0.010" (0.25 mm) greater than the tube inner diameter. It is prudent
to follow the vendor’s instructions to fit the plug into the tube. The tube
holes must have clean, intact edges for the best fit. Careless insertion cracks
ligaments, stresses the tubesheet, loosens adjacent tube joints, and can result
in the plugs coming out with risk to personnel and equipment. Tapered plugs
are longer but two-piece plugs offer more sealing surface and require less
force to seat, thus minimizing the stress to the surrounding tubesheet region.
In the two-piece model, the tapered portion is forced into a collar that ex-
pands to fit the tube. Standard manual plugs are displayed in Figure 7.

Collar
Tapered
Pin

a. Tapered Plug b. Two-Piece Tapered Plug

Figure 7
Common Manual Tube Repair Plugs
(Source: ABCs of Condenser Technology, Electric Power Research Institute,
Palo Alto, CA: August 1994. Report TR-104512.)

NMAC Tech Note 45


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

10.3.2 Welded Plugs


For maximum reliability, plugs should be welded when elevated pressures
and temperatures are present. However, the welding process can stress the
tube-to-tubesheet joints, which might crack and leak later. Only experienced
repair facilities ought to be utilized.

10.3.3 Explosive Plugs


In the case of high-pressure and high-temperature systems, explosive plugs
are an option. They should be installed only by qualified personnel. The
procedure necessitates good cleaning of the tubes and supporting the adja-
cent tubes against collision damage. The explosive charge expands, but does
not fuse the plug in the tube. The process is costly, but it provides a reliable
mechanical bond of the plug inside the tube.

10.3.4 Compression Plugs


A plug with an elastomer seal has limited application; it is used only in
situations with moderate temperatures and pressures. The seal degrades
with time and temperature, and this plug is not considered a permanent fix.

10.3.5 Mechanical Plugs


More sophisticated plugs have expanding rings that seal with minimal stress
and force. This type plug has been demonstrated at elevated pressures and is
removable. The tube ID is rounded with a cutting brush to correctly fit the
plug size.

Tubing is a heat exchanger’s most important component. A tube provides a


10.4 Tube Repair
pressure boundary that separates tubeside from shellside fluids, as well as a
heat transfer medium as the thermal energy is passed across the tube wall.

10.4.1 Epoxy Coating


An epoxy coating can be applied to the inlet area of a tube to replace eroded or
corroded material or to provide an inert barrier between the tube material and
fluid. The coating is done in several steps to build thickness. It is also feasible
to coat an entire tube ID by spraying one or two thin coats of epoxy, but expect
no more than a 10-year coating life. A coating creates a thermal resistance that
must be taken into account for heat exchanger performance. Ideally, this extra
resistance is offset by the reduced tubeside fouling level in the exchanger.

10.4.2 Sleeves
Ferrules are sleeves of brass, carbon steel, stainless steel (common), and other
metals that are slipped inside the tube and rolled to seal. The ferrule diam-
eter must be sized correctly. When in place, the lip of the sleeve covers the
damaged tube-to-tubesheet inlet area. Note that the tube diameter is slightly

46 NMAC Tech Note


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

reduced by the sleeve (a nominal 20 BWG tube reduces to 14 BWG, for


instance). Some erosion potential exists inside the tube, downstream of the
insert, because of its disruption of the flow.
Sleeves are also expanded to seal leaks in the middle of a tube. In such a case,
the pressure drop and thermal resistance changes must be considered. If the
tube is partially or completely severed, a more complex analysis is due
because the sleeve becomes a pressure boundary. Sleeves can be supplied
along the full length of a straight tube; a mechanical expansion of the sleeve
over the entire length is wise to minimize wall thermal impedance. A full
length sleeve can be an economical option to retubing with a costly material.
The original tube wall still supplies the strength to the pressure boundary
while the sleeve material repairs the leaks.

10.4.3 Tube Replacement


It should be noted that the two most common tube failure modes are inside
corrosion pitting and outside baffle hole wear. In theory, all exchangers can
be retubed. When upgrading the tube bundle material, the relative cost of
various tubing materials with respect to the baseline, carbon steel, are given
in Table 3.
Table 3
Tube Replacement Materials

ASME Grade Type Material BWG Relative Cost


SA-214 Plain CS 14 1.0
SA-179 Plain CS 14 1.3
SB-111 Plain Cu 18 2.0
SB-111 Integral Fin Cu 20 3.0
SB-111 Plain Admirality 16 2.8
SA-249 Plain 304 SS 16 2.6
SA-249 Plain 316 SS 16 4.3
SB-111 Plain 90/10 CuNi 16 3.5
SB-111 Plain 70/30 CuNi 16 3.9
SB-163 Plain Monel 16 14.3
SB-338 Plain, Gr. 2 Titanium 22 11.4
SB-163 Plain Inconel 16 17.1

Follow the recommendations of the manufacturer when replacing tubes. How-


ever, this section contains some general comments about tube replacement.
At first, release the tube-to-tubesheet joint and pull or push the tube out;
pulling is safer because the tube cannot buckle or crush. Retube from the
center of the bundle and work toward the outside. This retains baffle sup-
port; the tie rods tend to be at the outer edge of the bundle layout. Tube

NMAC Tech Note 47


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

remnants in the joint and grooves should be carefully scratched out with a
small tool. The joint and new tube must be clean before insertion.
One sample method for retubing fixed tubesheet heat exchangers involves
pulling and replacing tubes in a four-phase arrangement. Each phase in-
cludes a removal of one-fourth of all the exchanger’s tubes, cleaning the tube
holes, and subsequent tube replacement. The tubes are removed and re-
placed in a pattern of every other tube in every other row that allows a
complete surrounding of the removed tubes with old tubes, which limits the
chance of tube lane crossing when inserting the new tubes.
One factor that adversely limits normal tube replacement is a severely
twisted tube bundle. Severe twisting could make for higher than desired tube
pushing or pulling forces from drag in the baffle holes. The bundle can
distort from its operating conditions or from insufficient internal attachment.
The straightness of the bundle can be verified by visual sighting through the
tubes with a strong light on the opposite side. If the light cannot be sighted
through the tubes, it indicates some bundle alignment problems where
retubing might be a concern.
With fixed tubesheet designs where the bundle has a definite twist, an
alternate retubing process is employed that uses multiple shell access holes
cut along the axis of the bundle between the tie rods. The bundle is com-
pletely detubed, starting in the area in front of the access shell holes and
working inward. With physical access to the shell, straightening of the tube
bundle or other alignment repairs can be accomplished prior to replacing the
tubes. Shell access affords an excellent opportunity to fully inspect the
bundle cage (tie rods, baffles, spacers, and so on) and to thoroughly clean the
shell of debris from tube cutting and pulling. Tube insertion alignment is
maintained by physical reach through the shell holes. New tubes are filled in,
starting at the opposite side of the shell window holes.
Each new tube should measure 1/8" (3 mm) longer than the original; the
excess, after insertion, must be trimmed off with a conventional tube trim-
mer. Clean away the trimmings and roll the tube ends. It is safer to underroll
and reroll than to overroll, which might damage the tubesheet. The rolling
tool must be kept lubricated, and the space between the tube and tubesheet
kept clean and free of the lubricant and any other contaminant.
In any case, the root cause for all tube failures needs to be ascertained to
prevent future degradation. Simultaneously, tubes near the failed ones
deserve close inspection because damage often occurs in a group or pattern.

With fixed tubesheet exchangers, shell replacement is not practical although


10.5 Shell Repair
repairs can be performed. In floating head units, the shell is available for repair
or even replacement because the entire bundle is removable. Typical shell
repairs are weld build-ups of wasted areas, major welds, and expansion joints.

48 NMAC Tech Note


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

Under most conditions, it is cost-effective to replace a wasted or distorted


10.6 Nozzle Repair
nozzle rather than to use welding to build up the component. The replace-
ment nozzle must conform to the design pressure and temperature ratings;
the use of a nozzle with a thicker wall is a good method to satisfy reinforce-
ment requirements. Otherwise, a reinforcement pad is added to the outside
of the shell. When inlet tube bundle erosion damage is encountered, a re-
placement nozzle with an integral impingement plate can be substituted. The
old nozzle is cut out and the new one welded in.

When removing the heads, mark each of them in such a way that it can be
10.7 Heads, Channels,
And Gasket Joints replaced in the exact position as before. A marking pencil is a good way to do
this. Also, use proper lifting components (lugs) and techniques to avoid
damage to exchanger components or surrounding equipment. The manufac-
turer can be contacted for lifting instructions if there is any doubt.
Follow the vendor instructions during unbolting a head (or any other gasket
joint). Failure to do so can permanently distort the joint when gasket forces
are released and concentrated. A common mistake is to completely loosen
and remove each bolt in one pass.
To reinstall the head, take care not to move the gasket when aligning the
heads. (Ensure that the gasket is not blocking tubes.) Follow the
manufacturer’s procedures for torque, torque pattern, and number of torque
passes when seating the gasket joint. Samples of torque patterns for different
numbers of bolts and joint patterns are available in Figure 8.

NMAC Tech Note 49


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

1
1 1
7 12 5
5
8 9
4 3 4 3 4 3
10 7
6 8
2 6 11
2 2

4 Bolt Pattern 8 Bolt Pattern 12 Bolt Pattern

20 1 23
11 1 16 9
15 17 1 13 8
7 5 11 5 5
7 9 12 13
13 9
15 20 22
17
4 3 4 3 4 3
10 14 19 16 18 21
6 8 10 8
6 12 14 11
16 2 12 14 2 18 6 7
10 15
24 2 19

16 Bolt Pattern 20 Bolt Pattern 24 Bolt Pattern

4 2
6 8

9 10

7
5
1 3

Non-Circular Multi-Bolt Pattern

8 4 1 5 9

11 12

7 3 2 6 10

Obround Using Spiral Pattern

Figure 8
Sample Bolting Patterns for a Gasket Joint
(Source: Bolted Joint Maintenance and Applications Guide. EPRI,
Palo Alto, CA: December 1995. Report TR-104213.)

50 NMAC Tech Note


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Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

The head or flange ought to seat the gasket, not crush it. A large amount of
gasket protruding from the edge of a flange joint indicates over-tightening
and gasket extrusion. Lubricant must be applied to the bolts prior to tighten-
ing. Several passes at the specified torque and in a staggered pattern consti-
tutes the norm. For complete certainty of bolt preloading, the bolt elongation
is determined. (Contaminants and defects in the bolts and/or nuts distort
torque readings.) A bolting procedure might call for a recheck of torque at a
later date to compensate for gasket relaxation or expansion. Distorted bolts,
covers, and flanges are a sign of improper fastening. Although unexpected,
high pressures in the vessel can produce the same effect.
Waterboxes, heads, channels, and nozzles can also be epoxy coated like
tubesheets. The coating is applied in several passes to build a layer at least
1/16" (1.6 mm) thick; thicker build-ups can be employed if needed; however,
caution must be exercised when coatings are applied because the total anodic
surface area is reduced. The uncoated areas can be subject to accelerated
anodic attack as a result.

The gasket is an integral part of the exchanger, and its construction is based
10.8 Gasket
Replacement on a design that considers pressure, temperature, and thickness of mating
surfaces. Therefore, consult the manufacturer to obtain an exact replacement
that matches the material, thickness, and strength. If practical, replace the
gasket when unbolting a joint; the exception is for plate heat exchangers
whose gaskets can be used repeatedly.
Clean the mating gasket surfaces before replacement. A scraper or wire brush
with a cleaning agent aids in removing gasket remnants. Always take the time
to examine the old gasket for deterioration. If there is extensive uneven crushing
of the gasket, an alternative gasket/flange design should be considered. Check
the new gasket for defects. If the gasket is to be reused, clean it with water using
a soft brush, sponge, or rag. In addition, the flatness of the heads and tubesheets
ought to be verified. If the flatness is not within 1/32" (0.8 mm), sealing prob-
lems might be encountered, depending on the specific gasket. If the surfaces are
significantly distorted, a component repair or replacement is advised.
Similar procedures apply when dealing with packing seals. TEMA P and W
designs contain packing that must be properly handled and reinstalled, per
the vendor’s instructions.

1. Stanley Yokell, A Working Guide to Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchangers.


10.9 References
McGraw-Hill, New York, NY 1990.
2. Bolted Joint Assembly and Plant Leak Reduction. Electric Power Research
Institute, Palo Alto, CA. Report TR-105875.
3. Bolted Joint Maintenance and Applications Guide. Electric Power Research
Institute, Palo Alto, CA: December 1995. Report TR-104213.
4. Standards of the Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association, Tubular
Exchanger Manufacturers Association, Inc., Tarrytown, NY, 1988.

NMAC Tech Note 51


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

11
PLATE HEAT EXCHANGERS

A plate heat exchanger (see Figure 9) has several attractive characteristics. It


is easy to replace, service, and clean single plates, which are resistant to
fouling build-up. Another feature includes the ability to adjust performance
(change the number or type of plates) in the field.

NMAC Tech Note 53


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

Roller Moveable
Inspection Assembly Cover Gasket Carrying Bar
Cover

Plate
Pack
Support
Column

Stud
Bolt
Support
Foot

Fixed
Cover
Guide
Bar

Tightening Lock Tightening Bearing Shroud Frame Foot


Nut Washer Bolt Box

Figure 9
Plate Heat Exchanger
(Source: Alfa Laval Thermal, Inc., Richmond, VA)

The individual plates are corrugated (chevrons, herringbone patterns) for


heat transfer and to give stiffness. The heavy end plates compress the plate
stack, and the top and bottom bars hold the plates in position. Bolts compress
the plate stack through the end plates and hold the assembly together. The
frame is the vertical support member at the end of the unit. Plate exchanger
nozzles are known as ports.
Most models have gasket sealing, but brazed construction is appropriate for
some duties. There are potential mechanical integrity problems with tem-
perature cycling in brazed exchangers. It is not possible to offer more infor-
mation because of the lack of historical maintenance and operational data for
plate heat exchangers in power plants.

54 NMAC Tech Note


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

12
COMPACT HEAT EXCHANGERS

Compact heat exchangers are small units that are characterized by extended
or augmented surface areas. Cleaning is not always feasible because of the
construction of the extended surface, and it might be cost effective simply to
replace the cooler when fouled. Repairs are difficult for the same reason, and
the equipment manufacturer should be consulted for guidelines.

NMAC Tech Note 55


EPRI Licensed Material
Heat Exchangers: An Overview of Maintenance and Operations

13
AIR COOLERS

Power water washing is a simple technique to clean the fins of an air cooler.
Other than fouling, air flow obstructions are the major cause of reduced capac-
ity. This type of exchanger is susceptible to absorbing sources of heat due to its
large surface area. Guidelines for shell-and-tube exchangers can be extended to
the tubeside and waterbox exchangers, but maintenance and operational issues
regarding the airside must be taken up with the manufacturer.

NMAC Tech Note 57