Evaluating Heat Exchanger Constructability

Designing heat transfer systems is a complex process. Identifying the optimal solution through intuition alone is difficult because each problem can have many alternative solutions with their own complex economic and performance interactions. And the installation cost is often much higher than the purchase price for the heat exchanger.

Finding the best solution requires evaluation of the economics of the entire system, including design, manufacture, installation, operation, and maintenance.

Case Study: Distillation Column Overhead Condenser

Two possible solutions for an overhead condenser are an AHU or an AGU design. The G shell solution requires a larger tube pitch and shell diameter in order to meet the required shellside pressure drop. The results of an Xchanger Suite rating for both possible designs are summarized in Table 1.

Table I. Xchanger Suite ratings for AHU and AGU designs

Shell diameter, mm 1050 1250
Tube length, mm 6400 5000
Surface area, m2 415 410
Empty weight, kg 124000 131000


Figuring out the ideal solution requires evaluation of the economics. Exchanger Optimizer from HTRI can estimate the purchase and installation costs, and the software handles multiple currencies and places of manufacture. The results for the two options are summarized in Table 2, using Euros as currency.


Table II. Exchanger Optimizer cost comparisons for AHU and AGU designs

Purchase price, Euro 144000 151000
Installation cost, Euro 486000 379000
Total installed cost, Euro 630000 530000


The H shell has the lowest purchase price, but the G shell has a much lower installation cost. The costs to fabricate, install, and insulate the piping manifolds for the H shell are significant at approximately €110,000. The piping manifolds require additional pipe fittings, and increase the weld count of the piping network. Paying slightly more for the heat exchanger saves €100,000 in the installed cost. A breakdown of the installation cost for the H shell is shown in Figure 1. As is often the case with shell-and-tube heat exchangers, piping costs dominate the installation cost of the heat exchanger.


Breakdown of installation costs

Using Exchanger Optimizer to find the solution with the lowest total installed cost can result in significant cost savings. This is especially true when installing heat exchangers in plant locations where the local labor rate is high or when the piping cost is high.

Download a trial of Exchanger Optimizer at www.exchangeroptimizer.com and start evaluating the constructability of your heat exchangers.