Shell & Tube Heat Exchangers

Two fluids, of different starting temperatures, flow through the heat exchanger. One flows through the tubes (the tube side) and the other flows outside the tubes but inside the shell (the shell side). Heat is transferred from one fluid to the other through the tube walls, either from tube side to shell side or vice versa. The fluids can be either liquids or gases on either the shell or the tube side. In order to transfer heat efficiently, a large heat transfer area should be used, leading to the use of many tubes. In this way, waste heat can be put to use. This is an efficient way to conserve energy.

Heat exchangers with only one phase (liquid or gas) on each side can be called one-phase or single-phase heat exchangers. Two-phase heat exchangers can be used to heat a liquid to boil it into a gas (vapor), sometimes called boilers, or cool a vapor to condense it into a liquid, with the phase change usually occurring on the shell side. Boilers in steam engine locomotives are typically large, usually cylindrically-shaped shell-and-tube heat exchangers. In large power plants with steam-driven turbines, shell-and-tube surface condensers are used to condense the exhaust steam exiting the turbine into condensate water which is recycled back to be turned into steam in the steam generator.


Shell and tube heat exchanger design

There can be many variations on the shell and tube design. Typically, the ends of each tube are connected to plenums (sometimes called water boxes) through holes in  tubesheets. The tubes may be straight or bent in the shape of a U, called U-tubes.

U tube heat exchanger

In nuclear power plants called pressurized water reactors, large heat exchangers called steam generators are two-phase, shell-and-tube heat exchangers which typically have U-tubes. They are used to boil water recycled from a surface condenser into steam to drive a turbine to produce power. Most shell-and-tube heat exchangers are either 1, 2, or 4 pass designs on the tube side. This refers to the number of times the fluid in the tubes passes through the fluid in the shell. In a single pass heat exchanger, the fluid goes in one end of each tube and out the other.

straight-tube heat exchanger

Surface condensers in power plants are often 1-pass straight-tube heat exchangers. Two and four pass designs are common because the fluid can enter and exit on the same side. This makes construction much simpler.

two pass heat exchanger

There are often baffles directing flow through the shell side so the fluid does not take a short cut through the shell side leaving ineffective low flow volumes. These are generally attached to the tube bundle rather than the shell in order that the bundle is still removable for maintenance.

Counter current heat exchangers are most efficient because they allow the highest log mean temperature difference between the hot and cold streams. Many companies however do not use single pass heat exchangers because they can break easily in addition to being more expensive to build. Often multiple heat exchangers can be used to simulate the counter current flow of a single large exchanger.

Tube bundle and Replacement coils


Surefin Coils can duplicate any existing tube bundle to required dimensions, materials and performance. We can build "U" tube bundles, straight tube"floating" tubesheet bundle, or we can retube fixed tubesheet heat exchangers when the bundle is not removable. Surefin coils is not locked into any one material. Most bundle tend to be built with copper tubes and steel tubesheets.


Surefin Coils has a great deal of experience in the design and manufacturing process of shell and tube heat exchangers. We build "U" tube heat exchangers, straight tube "fixed" exchangers and straight tube "floating" exchangers. We build our units for high thermal efficiency and we give you rugged construction for tough day to day operations.


We offer you total flexibility to meet your most demanding requirements… special connection sizes and locations, various tube connection sizes and locations, various tube diameters and spacing, tube lengths, and special materials. Surefin Coils's exchangers can be built to ASME standards.


We offer a wide variety of constructing materials, including:


  • carbon steel
  • stainless steel
  • cupro-nickle
  • admiralty brass
  • and many others


To receive a Tube Bundle price, Tube Exchanger price or Tube Shell price, CONTACT US Today!

Tube Bundle Image

Tube bundle or Heat exchanger coil

This is one example of a tube exchanger.


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