by David R. Thornton, P.E. / Robert A. Sadowski, P.E. / Philip A. Henry, P.E. / Jul 15, 2012

As part of operations, petrochemical and process plants sometimes require the exchange of heat between a high pressure fluid and a lower pressure fluid in shell-and-tube heat exchangers. In most cases, the high pressure fluid exists on the tubeside and the lower pressure is on the shellside. While rare, it is possible for a tube inside the exchanger shell to rupture suddenly, releasing the high pressure fluid into the shellside. If the pressure of the high pressure fluid exceeds the design pressure of the low pressure shell or its attached piping, it might be possible for the resulting pressure in the low pressure side to exceed permitted values. In such cases, API 521 provides guidance on assuring that sufficient pressure relief is available to limit the pressures on the heat exchanger(s)’ low pressure side. An overpressure analysis per API 521 can include both steady-state and transient analysis methods for determining that the pressures remain within acceptable levels. In situations where a large pressure differential exists between the high and low pressure sides of the exchanger, the transient, hydraulic analysis of the tube rupture event can be used as a tool to help mitigate over pressure. After briefly discussing the analysis methodology, this paper discusses some of the practical considerations and decisions that normally go into conducting the analysis.

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