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www.elsevier.com/locate/apthermeng

fouling depends on local temperature and velocity

David Butterworth *

HTFS, Hyprotech, The Gemini Building, Fermi Avenue, Harwell International Business Centre, Didcot,

Oxon OX11 0QR, UK

Received 22 September 2001; received in revised form 22 November 2001; accepted 1 December 2001

Abstract

Shell-and-tube heat exchangers are normally designed on the basis of a uniform and constant fouling

resistance that is speciﬁed in advance by the exchanger user. The design process is then one of determining

the best exchanger that will achieve the thermal duty within the speciﬁed pressure drop constraints. It has

been shown in previous papers [Designing shell-and-tube heat exchangers with velocity-dependant fouling,

34th US National Heat Transfer Conference, 20–22 August 2000, Pittsburg, PA; Designing shell-and-tube

heat exchangers with velocity-dependant fouling, 2nd Int. Conf. on Petroleum and Gas Phase Behavior and

Fouling, 27–31 August 2000, Copenhagen] that this approach can be extended to the design of exchangers

where the design fouling resistance depends on velocity. The current paper brieﬂy reviews the main ﬁndings

of the previous papers and goes on to treat the case where the fouling depends also on the local temper-

atures. The Ebert–Panchal [Analysis of Exxon crude-oil, slip-stream coking data, Engineering Foundation

Conference on Fouling Mitigation of Heat Exchangers, 18–23 June 1995, California] form of fouling rate

equation is used to evaluate this fouling dependence. When allowing for temperature eﬀects, it becomes

diﬃcult to divorce the design from the way the exchanger will be operated up to the point when the design

fouling is achieved. However, rational ways of separating the design from the operation are proposed.

2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.

*

Address: 29 Clevelands, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 2EQ, UK. Tel.: +44-1235-525-955; fax: +44-1235-200-906.

E-mail addresses: davebutterworth@compuserve.com, dave.butterworth@hyprotech.com (D. Butterworth).

PII: S 1 3 5 9 - 4 3 1 1 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 0 2 5 - X

790 D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801

Nomenclature

Da ﬂow diameter with asymptotic fouling, m

E energy of activation in Ebert–Panchal equation: 68 kJ/mol

f friction factor

kF thermal conductivity of fouling, W/m K

r tube-side fouling resistance: m2 K/W

R universal gas constant, 8:314 103 kJ/mol

Re tube-side Reynolds number

t time, s

Tf ﬁlm temperature, K

u tube-side velocity, m/s

uT threshold velocity below which fouling occurs, m/s

Greek

a constant in Ebert–Panchal equation: 8.39 (m2 K/W)/s

c constant Ebert–Panchal equation: 4:03 1011 Pa (m2 K/W)/s

da asymptotic fouling layer thickness, m

l viscosity of tube-side ﬂuid, Ns/m2

q density of tube-side ﬂuid, kg/m3

s shear stress on surface of the fouling or at wall for a clean exchanger, Pa

1. Introduction

There has been a recent rapid development on the science of fouling leading to better prediction

methods. Many of these methods treat the fouling buildup rate as dependent on the local con-

ditions of say velocity and temperature within the exchanger. At present, these equations are

rarely used in design for the reasons that

• knowledge is needed about the way the exchanger will be operated up to the point when the

design condition is reached.

• The design process can become very complicated.

• We do not yet have any consensus between the purchaser and the designer about how to use the

equations.

This contrasts markedly with the customary simple approach of specifying a single, constant

fouling resistance that the designer incorporates into his/her design.

The current paper ﬁrstly reviews recent past work by the author in which the fouling resistance

is assumed only to vary with velocity. It then goes on to consider ways of applying the equations

which do allow for temperature eﬀects. In doing this, some ways are suggested of addressing the

above barriers to using the recent equations.

D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801 791

In this paper, simpliﬁed cases are deliberately used in order to illustrate the phenomena clearly

without getting distracted with details. However, the main points that are made will apply also if

more complex and realistic cases are considered.

This paper is an update of one presented as an ‘‘Unpublished’’ paper in a topical session at the

AIChE Spring Meeting, April 2001 [4].

2. Deﬁnition of design

The word design covers a wide range of activities. In this paper, the restricted form of the

deﬁnition is used, which is that used invariably in the chemical and petroleum industries when a

purchaser asks for bids for an exchanger for a speciﬁc application. In this situation, the purchaser

speciﬁes the ﬂow rates and inlet and outlet temperatures of each stream. This also deﬁnes the heat

load or thermal duty for the exchanger. In addition, the purchaser also speciﬁes the maximum

allowable pressure drops for the two streams. There will, of course be other items in the speci-

ﬁcation, such as avoiding ﬂow-induced vibration, but these are not relevant to the current paper.

The design process is then one of determining the size and conﬁguration of heat exchanger which

will achieve the thermal duty within the imposed constraints.

In previous papers [1,2], the author considered the design consequences of allowing only for the

eﬀect of velocity on the fouling resistance. The case considered was of a hydrocarbon that is being

heated inside tubes using condensing vapour on the shell side. For simplicity, the shell side

was assumed not to be controlling (i.e. to have a very high coeﬃcient and to have no important

pressure drop limit) and to be isothermal.

The design process is explored using the ‘‘design-envelope’’ concept which is described brieﬂy in

the appendix and discussed in more detail by Butterworth [5]. This method has been incorporated

by HTFS into a piece of educational software known as DEVIZE, and into the rigorous air-

cooled exchanger design program ACOL. A similar method has been developed by ESDU In-

ternational and is described in their various data items.

The following design cases were considered, and are illustrated in Figs. 1–5 respectively.

1. No fouling: this gives an optimum design with 303 tubes 4.65 m long.

2. Addition of constant fouling resistance to the above example. This displaces the heat transfer

locus to the right thus causing the optimum to move to a point with both longer and more

tubes. The broken line on the curve shows what happens if the purchaser were to increase

the speciﬁed maximum allowable pressure drop from the that originally speciﬁed. This is a pos-

sible way of reducing the size of the exchanger ﬁnally designed.

3. Step change in fouling. This shows the heat transfer locus obtained if the fouling resistance is

zero at high velocity but has a high but constant value below some threshold velocity. In the

conditions chosen here, two design envelopes are obtained, one for a clean design and one

for a fouled design.

792 D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801

D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801 793

Fig. 4. Envelope with a step change of both fouling resistance and friction factor.

Fig. 5. Envelope with a continuous increase in fouling resistance with reducing velocity––including the eﬀect of in-

creasing the allowable pressure drop.

4. The last case with the additional eﬀect of the fouling increasing the friction factor. Again, this

gives two design envelops but that for fouled exchangers is displaced to a higher number of

tubes.

5. Fouling increasing smoothly with decreasing velocity. A strong dependence of fouling resis-

tance with velocity was assumed here which causes the heat transfer locus to bend over to

the right at high numbers of tubes. This is because the overall coeﬃcient falls rapidly with de-

creasing velocity (because of the strong fouling dependence) thus requiring lengthening of the

tubes to provide the required heat transfer area. As with case 2 above, this ﬁgures explores, in

addition, the possibility of increasing the allowable pressure drop.

1. Allowing for the variation of fouling resistance with velocity at the design stage enables the de-

sign engineer to provide an exchanger with less likelihood of fouling.

794 D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801

2. The inclusion of a fouling resistance has the combined eﬀect of adding the fouling resistance

itself and of lowering the tube side, stream coeﬃcient because more tubes are needed. Hence,

the eﬀect of adding a fouling resistance has a more deleterious eﬀect on the performance than

just the addition of the resistance itself.

3. If we then allow also for the fact that fouling increases pressure gradient, this forces us to a

design with more tubes still further leading to an additional decrease in tube side, stream coef-

ﬁcient.

4. When the fouling resistance increases with reducing velocity, this combines with the two previ-

ous points to give marked reduction of overall coeﬃcient.

5. There are situations where step changes in fouling resistance can lead to two very diﬀerent de-

signs––one for a clean exchanger and one for a dirty exchanger.

6. Some of the above problems can be avoided if the purchaser could sanction an increase in al-

lowable pressure drop.

It is sometimes said that, when providing the additional area needed to allow for fouling, the

designer should go for longer tubes rather than more tubes. However, point 2 above means that

this is rarely possible unless the purchaser sanctions a higher pressure drop.

Taking points 2–4 together tells us that over-specifying fouling resistance, ‘‘Just to be on the

safe side,’’ has far more serious consequences than is often realised. Not only do we add area to

allow for the fouling but we also have to add area to allow for the lower stream coeﬃcients.

The equation used is that of Ebert and Panchal [3] for crude oil streams, which is as follows:

dr 0:88 E

¼ aRe exp cs: ð1Þ

dt RTf

It is recognised that there are other forms of this equation and that the various constants in the

equation need to be optimised for a given crude stream. The point of this paper is however to

explore methodologies rather than to predict a particular situation. This equation is therefore

considered to be representative of other similar equations.

In the calculations described here, the shear stress, s, is calculated as follows:

f 2

s¼ qu ð2Þ

2

with the friction factor calculated from the Blasius equation:

f

¼ 0:0396 Re0:25 : ð3Þ

2

D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801 795

It is well known that there will be certain conditions of ﬁlm temperature, Tf , and velocity, u,

where the second term in Eq. (1) is greater than the ﬁrst ensuring no growth of fouling. Provided

that the whole of the exchanger can be operated under these conditions at all times, the exchanger

will remain clean. Designing to avoid fouling is therefore possible by considering the hot end of

the exchanger and ensuring that the velocity there is greater than the threshold velocity for the

onset of fouling at for the prevailing ﬁlm temperature.

Setting dr=dt as zero and solving for u, gives the threshold velocity uT as a function of ﬁlm

temperature as

" #0:38

a expðE=RTf Þ

uT ¼ : ð4Þ

0:0396cqðqD=lÞ0:63

Fig. 6 shows the design envelope for a typical case of a two-pass exchanger. Also shown on this

ﬁgure is the locus for fouling to occur at the end of the second pass (called here threshold 2, with

the 2 being for the second pass). To explain, designs above this latter line will be subject to fouling

because the velocity at exit of the exchanger is below the threshold velocity for the outlet ﬁlm

temperature. Since designs are only valid which are above the pressure drop and heat transfer loci,

there is no fouling-free design in this case. This approach to design has been discussed by Polley

[6].

However, in the current paper an additional locus, threshold 1, is also included on this ﬁgure.

This threshold is for fouling to commence at the end of the ﬁrst pass. This is well above the point

where the pressure drop and heat transfer loci cross and so shows that there is a useful margin

here if only we could ﬁnd a way to exploit it. One way is to have more tubes in the ﬁrst pass than

the second pass. Fig. 7 shows the same design but now with the ratio of tubes in pass 2 to pass 1

being 0.9. Both the heat-transfer and pressure-drop loci have moved but only by a very small

Fig. 6. Inclusion of fouling thresholds with the same number of tubes in each pass.

796 D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801

Fig. 7. Inclusion of fouling thresholds but with more tubes in the ﬁrst pass than the second.

amount. The two fouling thresholds have however moved signiﬁcantly with both now being high

enough to allow a design satisfying all criteria. Essentially, we have saved pressure drop on the

ﬁrst pass to give more pressure drop on the second pass to enable the velocity to be increased

above the threshold.

While this is a possible technique, there are few situations where it is likely to be of great

beneﬁt. In order to work, the stream temperature at the end of the second pass must be very much

higher than that at the end of the ﬁrst pass. Even with a very large stream temperature rise (and 75

K was used in this case) the diﬀerence in temperatures at the ends of the passes are much less

because there is a higher temperature rise in the ﬁrst pass.

In some systems, the fouling resistance rises to an asymptotic value after operating for some

time. On the face of it, however, Eq. (1) predicts a continuously rising fouling resistance with no

asymptote. Nevertheless, we can apply the equation in such a way that it will predict an as-

ymptote. We can do this by observing that a ﬁnite thickness of fouling builds up. For a given ﬂow

in the tube, this increase in fouling thickness increases both terms in Eq. (1), but the ﬁrst term

increases more slowly than the second. We can therefore determine a fouling thickness at which

both terms cancel out thus giving no further growth and hence the asymptote.

The condition for zero growth gives the following equation for the internal diameter, Da , inside

the asymptotic fouling layer.

0:216

Da 0:0396c Re0:63 qu2

¼ : ð5Þ

D a expðE=RTf Þ

In this equation, Re and u are the superﬁcial values (or the values which would be obtained with

the same mass ﬂow in the tubes but without any fouling present).

D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801 797

D Da

da ¼ 1 ð6Þ

2 D

and, hence the asymptotic fouling resistance ra from.

ra ¼ da =kF : ð7Þ

Fig. 8 shows as broken lines the asymptotic fouling resistances calculated by this method. The

fouling layer thermal conductivity, kF , was assumed to be of 0.5 W/m K in calculating these

curves.

One beneﬁt of the asymptotic method is that the resultant fouling resistance depends only on

the end condition and not on the fouling history. It can therefore be applied easily in design. The

current analysis may however be criticized on the grounds that it is stretching the basis of the

Ebert–Panchal method too far.

We could also design on the basis of the fouling at the end of a speciﬁed operating period after

which the exchanger will be cleaned. Fig. 8 shows also as solid lines, the fouling resistance pre-

dicted after one year assuming that the velocity and the ﬁlm temperature remain constant over

this period. Except at the threshold, any agreement between the two methods is fortuitous because

of the arbitrary choice of the time period in the buildup case and the choice of fouling thermal

conductivity in the asymptotic case.

We need to consider the fouling buildup case further to see what operational history should be

assumed in the calculation. We start with a clean exchanger that will over perform unless we take

some steps to cut back on the performance. Given that the fouling rate increases rapidly with

decreasing velocity, we certainly must not cut down on the velocity in any way. The only pos-

sibility is therefore to lower the temperature diﬀerence. In our supposed case here, we have to

lower the condensing temperature at the start and then increase the temperature to give us the

798 D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801

same performance as the fouling builds up. If we suppose that the cold stream is isothermal, this

approach would result in a constant ﬁlm temperature over the whole time and hence in a constant

rate of fouling.

Unfortunately, this method of doing the calculation neglects the fact that the conditions of

temperature vary throughout the exchanger and therefore the fouling builds up in a complicated

way. We therefore need to investigate this eﬀect. A series of calculations was therefore carried out

to show the buildup of fouling with time and position when there is a realistic temperature rise in

the cold stream. The hot stream temperature was raised steadily as the fouling built up to keep the

heat load on the exchanger constant. The results of this calculation are shown in Fig. 9.

This is a two-pass exchanger with 6 m long tubes, so the distance along the tubes follows the

cold stream from the ﬁrst to the second pass.

A case was deliberately chosen where, at ﬁrst, the cold end of the exchanger was not undergoing

fouling. The point of onset of fouling moved upstream with time until fouling was occurring over

the whole tube length. Clearly, there is a strong increase in fouling from the inlet end to the outlet

end of the ﬂow path (from the cold to the hot end).

Although we could run such simulations while designing heat exchangers, it is a diﬃcult and

time-consuming exercise so the question is posed whether we can determine a reasonable design

fouling resistance in an easier manner. A convenient hypothesis is that we calculate the fouling

rate at the design condition and assume that this rate prevails over the whole operating period. A

rating calculation was done on this example using this hypothesis and the resultant heat transfer

area was changed by less than one per cent. Fig. 10 shows the result of the end-rate hypothesis

compared with the full buildup calculation. Clearly the agreement is good. We would need to try

more examples to conﬁrm that this is a universal ﬁnding but we can have some conﬁdence in the

method since, as noted above, the buildup case simulated was quite complicated. 1

1

Figs. 9 and 10 are corrected versions of those given in Ref. [4]. An error was found in the earlier calculations but the

diﬀerence between the two sets of results is hardly noticeable.

D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801 799

5. Conclusions

Introducing the eﬀect of temperature on fouling into the design of heat exchangers is shown to

be quite complex because the ﬁnal, design-fouling resistance depends on the history of operation

of the exchanger. Three methods are considered for overcoming this problem. The ﬁrst is to design

using the fouling threshold to ensure a clean exchanger. The second is to use the asymptotic

fouling resistance, which can be done but may not be fully compatible with the Ebert–Panchal

method used in the current calculations. Nevertheless, it would be a sensible way to proceed with

design in those cases where a good equation exists to predict asymptotic fouling. The third

method is to analyse the fouling buildup using an assumed operational history. The calculations

involved in this are quite time consuming but a simple hypothesis is shown to work remarkably

well. In this hypothesis, we assume that the fouling rate over the operating period is equal to that

at the end. There is some justiﬁcation for this hypothesis.

The objective of this method is to design an exchanger that achieve a given thermal duty which

means achieving the required stream outlet temperatures for the given inlet temperatures and

given ﬂow rates of the two streams. The ﬁnal design must also have pressure drops for each stream

which are below those speciﬁed. The full method is explained elsewhere by the author in Ref. [5].

As is stated in the main text of the current paper, a simpliﬁed version of the full envelope

method is used here in order to concentrate on the eﬀects of fouling without overcomplicating

matters by introducing subsidiary issues.

Consistent with these simpliﬁcations, the following equations are used to calculate the heat

transfer and pressure drop during the design process.

The heat load, Q, is calculated from

Q ¼ UADTm ;

800 D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801

where A is the heat transfer area and DTm is the mean temperature diﬀerence which in this case is

the logarithmic mean temperature diﬀerence.

The overall heat transfer coeﬃcient, U, is determined from

1 1

¼Rþrþ ;

U h

where R is the thermal resistance between the shell-side stream and the tube inside wall. A con-

stant and high value of this resistance is assumed throughout this paper. The value is consistent

with the shell side being clean and heated by condensing steam. The tube side coeﬃcient, h, is

calculated from the simple Dittus–Boelter equation

k 0:8 0:4

h ¼ 0:023 Re Pr ;

D

where k is the thermal conductivity, Re the Reynolds number and Pr the Prandl number for the

tube-side stream.

Note that h, U and A are based on the tube inside diameter, D, (rather than, as is the con-

vention, the tube outside diameter) because this paper is concentrating on the tube side.

The tube side pressure drop is given by

L qu2 qu2

Dp ¼ np 4f þK ;

D 2 2

where np is the number of tube-side passes and K is the number of velocity heads lost per pass due

to entrance, exit and turnarounds. A representative value of 1.8 has been used in the calculations.

The friction factor, f, is given by the Blasius equation (see main text, Eq. (2)).

For a given number of tubes and number of passes, the tube-side velocity is ﬁrst calculated.

From this, using the above equations, the tube length is calculated which will just use up the

speciﬁed pressure drop. This may be plotted as a point on a graph of number of tubes verses tube

length. Repeating this for diﬀerent numbers of tubes gives a locus of exchanger conﬁgurations

which will just satisfy the tube-side pressure-drop limit. This is illustrated in Fig. 11. All ex-

D. Butterworth / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 789–801 801

changers above the line will satisfy the pressure-drop criterion and are therefore valid designs,

whereas those below the line will not.

The process may be repeated for heat transfer, giving the line shown in the ﬁgure. Again,

conﬁgurations above this line will satisfy the heat transfer while those below will not. Hence, one

may construct an envelope, shown shaded of those exchangers which will satisfy both the heat-

transfer and pressure-drop criteria. Normally, the cheapest design is that with the least number of

tubes, which is easily determined from where the lines cross. This is referred to as the ‘‘optimum

design’’ in the text.

References

[1] D. Butterworth, Designing shell-and-tube heat exchangers with velocity-dependant fouling, 34th US National Heat

Transfer Conference, 20–22 August 2000, Pittsburgh, PA.

[2] D. Butterworth, Designing shell-and-tube heat exchangers with velocity-dependant fouling, 2nd Int. Conf. on

Petroleum and Gas Phase Behavior and Fouling, Copenhagen, 27–31 August 2000.

[3] W. Ebert, C.B. Panchal, Analysis of Exxon crude-oil, slip-stream coking data, Engineering Foundation Conference

on Fouling Mitigation of Heat Exchangers, California, 18–23 June 1995.

[4] D. Butterworth, Design of shell-and-tube heat exchangers when the fouling depends on local temperature and

velocity, Paper 46a, AIChE Spring Meeting, Houston, Texas, 22–26 April 2001.

[5] D. Butterworth, Visualize your design of shell-and-tube heat exchangers, Chemical Technology Europe 3 (4) (1996)

20–24.

[6] G.T. Polley, Towards Heat Exchanger Design that Takes Direct Account of Fouling, Paper presented at the 2nd

International Conference on Petroleum and Gas Phase Behavior and Fouling, Copenhagen, 27–31 August 2000.