10: How to clean a shell and tube heat exchanger?
During the course of its operating life, a shell and tube heat exchanger will need cleaning many times. Both fresh water and sea water cooling media today contain high levels of minerals and pollutants, which can build up over time, restricting the water flow through the tube core, resulting in a reduced flow rate and significantly lower heat transfer efficiency.
The good news is that Bowman shell and tube heat exchangers are much easier to clean than many other types and the following information is intended as a basic guide:
- Removing the end covers gives access to the tube core, which can be removed from the body (or shell).
- The tube plates and external tubes can then be washed using a handheld hose or lance. A steam cleaner can also be used, if available.
- Small diameter rods or tube brushes can be used to clean through each tube to remove any stubborn deposits.
- Detergents or chemicals can be used, if tube fouling is severe. Allow plenty of time for the cleaning media to work before hosing down with plenty of water. NOTE: it is important to check any cleaners being used are compatible with the tube material.
- Thoroughly flush the tube core with clean water to remove all traces of cleaning chemicals/detergents and if necessary, neutralise the cleaning fluid.
- Reassemble the tube core into the body, refit the end covers in their original orientation and tighten to the recommended torque figures – NOTE: always use new ‘O’ seals after cleaning to ensure a watertight joint.
For more detailed information on care and maintenance of your Bowman heat exchanger or oil cooler, download a copy of our ‘Installation, Operation & Maintenance guide’.