Heat exchangers are key components for many industries, particularly in chemical and oil and gas plants where they play a vital role in process control. Industry professionals — from design engineers and fabricators to the in-plant operators who work with the equipment daily — seek new ways to improve heat transfer performance and extend the life of these units in corrosive environments. Many times, improvements are closely related to the tubing specified for use in their heat exchangers. To improve the performance of heat exchanger tubing, materials engineers have a number of options. They include specifying higher corrosion-resistant grades, selecting tube suppliers with enhanced tube manufacturing and finning processes and using state-of-the-art manufacturers that have upgraded their methods of non-destructive testing.
Making the correct decision is not an easy task. When selecting a tube material for a heat exchanger, many different options are available, depending upon the application, design and operating conditions (such as temperature, pressure and the corrosive environment). In addition, to be viable candidate materials, those tubing options need to be available and affordable. Everything from raw material costs to the availability of off-the-shelf distribution can impact the tube selection process. And, all of these factors have the potential to affect the outcome of a project.