Heat Exchanger Leak Detection

The purpose of heat exchangers is to transfer heat between two or more fluids to regulate temperatures during food, beverage, and pharmaceutical processing. However, if a gas leak is present then toxic gases released from the exchangers can become a safety threat to workers in the area.

Heat exchangers are utilized constantly in the food and beverage industry, making products safe for consumption and extending shelf life by preventing the growth of harmful microbes. They also help dairy plants pasteurize milk by raising milk temperatures. Pharmaceutical processing takes advantage of heat exchangers because ingredients in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals must be mixed at specific temperatures to ensure safe use and product quality. 

The type of heat exchangers varies according to the attributes of the processed fluids, such as viscosity, particle size, temperature, and flow. Gasket plate and frame heat exchangers are among the most efficient designs so they are also among the most common designs in processing systems. As hot fluids pass over the plates, heat transfers from the hot to the cold side, decreasing the temperature of the hot side and raising the temperature of the cold side. Key to efficient operations, heat exchangers must maintain sufficient fluid velocity across plates to transfer heat while also controlling pressure drops that can disrupt operations. The plate distribution area ensures an even flow of fluid over the entire plate to maximize heat transfer. An optimized flow distribution also reduces uneven temperature zones that contribute to fouling. While the narrow flow path of plate heat exchangers creates efficient heat exchange, the narrow path also limits its ability to process fluids to those with low to medium viscosity and few suspended particles that can result in fouling from particulates getting caught on plate contact points.

Instead of transferring heat through parallel plates, shell and tube heat exchangers transfer heat between a bundle of tubes surrounded by a large shell vessel and are a second option to their gasket plate and frame counterparts. Fluids that run through the tubes exchange heat with fluids that run over the tubes contained by the shell. Because the diameter of tubes is typically greater than the gap between plates in plate heat exchangers, shell and tube exchangers are suited to applications in which the product is more resistant to flow or contains high-density particulates. Tubular heat exchangers can typically run longer between cleanings than plate heat exchangers in ultra-high-temperature applications.

Because heat exchangers must run fluids in order to operate, whether it is passed through plates or tubes, gas detection systems are required to ensure the safety of employees working in heat exchanger locations as well as the product(s). Since heat exchangers work to heat or cool something, gases such as natural gas, helium and oxygen are utilized to ensure whatever function is performed. If leaked, all gases have a health and safety risk to their workers and the overall site ventilation system. To ensure safety measures are exceeding basic safety standards, companies should utilize gas detection systems. 

Otis Instruments offers a variety of Wired and WireFree easy-to-use, robust and configurable gas detectors. Made in the USA, our high-quality products are capable of detecting both toxic and non-toxic gases for diverse applications. If you would like more information about gas detection solutions for your application, gas detection solutions for industries utilizing heat exchangers, or have a question for us, contact our team today.