Fouling

The retardation of heat transfer caused by fouling in Heat Exchangers is the prime reason for the increase in energy, maintenance, and operational cost!

What is Fouling?
Fouling is generally defined as the accumulation of unwanted materials on the surfaces of processing equipment. It has been recognized as a nearly universal problem in design and operation and affects the operation of equipment in two ways:·

  • The fouling layer has a low thermal conductivity. This increases the resistance to heat transfer and reduces the effectiveness of heat exchangers - increasing temperature·
  • As deposition occurs, the cross-sectional area is reduced, which causes an increase in pressure drop across the apparatus

    Cost Due to Fouling
    Despite the enormous costs associated with fouling, only very limited research has been done on this subject. Reliable knowledge of fouling economics is important when evaluating the cost efficiency of various mitigation strategies. The total fouling-related cost can be broken down into three main areas:

    1. Capital expenditure Capital expenditure includes excess surface area (10-50%, with an average around 35%), costs for stronger foundations, provisions for extra space, increased transport and installation costs.
    2. Extra fuel costs Fuel costs which arise if fouling leads to extra fuel burning in furnaces or boilers or if more secondary energy such as electricity or process steam is needed to overcome the effects of fouling.
    3. Production Loss Production losses during planned and unplanned plant shutdowns due to fouling.

    Fouling can be very costly in production and process plants since it increases fuel/electrical usage, results in interrupted operation and production losses, and increases maintenance costs.

    About 15% of the maintenance costs of a production or process plant can be attributed to oil coolers and heat exchangers and of this, half is probably caused by fouling.

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