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Publication Title | Optimization of Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers for Sea Water

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International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering Website: (ISSN 2250-2459, Volume 2, Issue 11, November 2012)

Optimization of Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers for Sea Water

Cooling by COMSOL Multiphysics

S. Swaraj Reddy1, Tania Dey2, Haribabu K3, Harshit Krishnakumar4, Garima Vishal5

1,2,4,5 Students, Department of Chemical Engineering, National Institute of Technology Calicut, Kozhikode. 3Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, National Institute of Technology Calicut, Kozhikode.

Abstract — In this paper, the new approach of COMSOL Multiphysics 3.5, a commercial finite element modelling software has been employed to simulate a theoretical (2-D geometry) model for shell and tube heat exchanger. The model incorporates the effects of fluid velocity in inlet and outlet and the material used for construction of heat exchanger for the required heat transfer to be achieved. The purpose of this paper is optimization of shell and tube heat exchanger for sea water cooling operation. In this operation, the coolant media from industries and other sources, at 120C has to be cooled to 60C using deep sea water available at 2 to 50C. The study mainly focuses on various configurations of shell and tube heat exchanger and the effect of different variables on heat transfer rate for optimized configuration. Simulation results show that aluminium is obtained as the preferred material of selection as it is coherent with all the parameters of design for the desired heat transfer.

Keywords — Comsol Multiphysics, Heat Transfer rate, Optimization, Sea Water Cooling, Shell and tube heat exchanger.


There is an overwhelming demand for air conditioning in office buildings. Consequently, the amount of energy used for cooling is a concern for many. The increased demand for cooling also means that more are being installed on the rooftops of buildings.

If the building is situated near a sea, one option could be to use the seawater as a heat sink, eliminating the need for a conventional air conditioner. Furthermore, by using seawater for cooling the condenser, a saving of up to 90%of energy can be achieved [1].

Seawater cooling systems are often designed using an intermediate heat exchanger that separates the sea water and the cooling media in the system, in order to prevent contamination of the condenser [2].

This technology has been put into use in several places around the world. It has been proposed to cool buildings in downtown Toronto using cold, deep-water withdrawn from Lake Ontario in North America [3].

A unique Sea Water Cooling (SWC) system at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), located in Southampton's dock area, UK, is saving energy and helping to reduce the building's carbon footprint [4]. Some preliminary research has been done on the use of sea water district heating and cooling for Tallinn coastal area, Finland [5]. Such a plant has also been installed in the Ninghai Power Plant, China [6].

With the increasing use of computers, powerful simulation software has become more popular. Computer simulation provides a lucid picture of the complicated physical phenomena that occur in any chemical engineering processes. This is possible because these simulations are able to provide visual representation of otherwise hard to picture concepts such as, concentration gradients, velocity profiles and temperature gradients [7]. Although there is no substitute for laboratory run experiments, digital simulations can be used as the stepping stone towards a better understanding of basic chemical engineering principles.

One such software is COMSOL Multiphysics. COMSOL Multiphysics is a finite element analysis, solver and Simulation software, Finite Element Software package for various physics and engineering applications, especially coupled phenomena, or Multiphysics. It is good at modeling chemical engineering phenomenon since it is designed to combine or couple several processes (like heat and momentum transfer in case of shell and tube heat exchanger) in a single model. Thus, COMSOL can solve multiple nonlinear PDE’s simultaneously and the models can be generated and solved in one, two or even three dimensions. Furthermore, COMSOL models are interactive, user friendly and they are ideal tools to complement theoretical knowledge.


U velocity scale

L length scale

ƞ kinematic viscosity.


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