Corrosion In Heat Exchangers

Some of the special considerations in regard to heat-exchanger corrosion are discussed in this subsection. A more extended presentation in Sec. 23 covers corrosion and its various forms as well as materials of construction.

Materials of Construction The most common material of construction for heat exchangers is carbon steel. Stainless-steel construction throughout is sometimes used in chemical-plant service and on rare occasions in petroleum refining. Many exchangers are constructed from dissimilar metals. Such combinations are functioning satisfactorily in certain services. Extreme care in their selection is required since electrolytic attack can develop.

Carbon steel and alloy combinations appear in Table 11-12 "Alloys" in chemical- and petrochemical-plant service in approximate order of use are stainless-steel series 300, nickel, Monel, copper alloy, aluminum, Inconel, stainless-steel series 400, and other alloys. In petroleum-refinery service the frequency order shifts, with copper alloy (for water-cooled units) in first place and low-alloy steel in second place. In some segments of the petroleum industry copper alloy, stainless series 400, low-alloy steel, and aluminum are becoming the most commonly used alloys.

Copper-alloy tubing, particularly inhibited admiralty, is generally used with cooling water. Copper-alloy tube sheets and baffles are generally of naval brass.

Aluminum alloy (and in particular alclad aluminum) tubing is sometimes used in water service. The alclad alloy has a sacrificial aluminum-alloy layer metallurgically bonded to a core alloy.

Tube-side headers for water service are made in a wide variety of materials: carbon steel, copper alloy, cast iron, and lead-lined or plastic-lined or specially painted carbon steel.

Bimetallic Tubes When corrosive requirements or temperature conditions do not permit the use of a single alloy for the tubes, bimetallic (or duplex) tubes may be used. These can be made from almost any possible combination of metals. Tube sizes and gauges can be varied. For thin gauges the wall thickness is generally divided equally between the two components. In heavier gauges the more expensive component may comprise from a fifth to a third of the total thickness.

The component materials comply with applicable ASTM specifications, but after manufacture the outer component may increase in hardness beyond specification limits, and special care is required during the tube-rolling operation. When the harder material is on the outside, precautions must be exercised to expand the tube properly. When the inner material is considerably softer, rolling may not be practical unless ferrules of the soft material are used.

In order to eliminate galvanic action the outer tube material may be stripped from the tube ends and replaced with ferrules of the inner tube material. When the end of a tube with a ferrule is expanded or welded to a tube sheet, the tube-side fluid can contact only the inner tube material, while the outer material is exposed to the shell-side fluid.

Bimetallic tubes are available from a small number of tube mills and are manufactured only on special order and in large quantities.

TABLE 11-12 Dissimilar Materials in Heat-Exchanger Construction

Part

Relative use

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