"Cost/benefit analysis of heat exchanger tube material"

Question:

"I am interested in pinpointing information that might be useful for weighing the pros and cons of different materials used for manufacturing the fin tubes and other primary components used in air cooled heat exchangers. The primary materials appear to be carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper/nickel alloys, and titanium. I know carbon steel is the least expensive and most prone to corrosion. I assume titanium is the most expensive but if I understand correctly has superior corrosion resistance. I am unclear, however, as to how stainless steel, aluminum, and the copper/nickel alloys compare to one another. All I'm really looking for here is an expert opinion on how they rank amongst themselves based on cost and corrosion resistance."

Answer:

I'm afraid that you are not going to like our answer, but I'll give it a shot anyway. We normally do not select materials for corrosive service based on a life cycle cost analysis. We leave that to the end user, with sometimes guidance from us on expected service life in specific environments. As for ranking your stated alloys with respect to corrosion resistance, that is not simple either, as each alloys' resistance will depend on the environment; therefore, you really need to phrase your question with respect to your environment(s) of interest for a meaningful answer. Accurate information on material costs you can best get from alloy suppliers. As for corrosion resistance in inhibited cooling water, carbon steel would exhibit the least resistance. However, having said that, it might perform satisfactorily, depending on comtaminents that might enter the cooling water from the diesel exhaust and the scaling tendancy of the water. The other alloys you mentioned, i.e., stainless steel, aluminum, titanium and the copper/nickels, are all extensively used in waters. They all have their individual achilles heels though, so their relative ranking will still depend on specifics. You failed to mention the type of stainless steel you were interested in. There are many grades of stainless steels, all with varying corrosion resistance. The cooling water would have to be extremely aggressive to consider titanium.

 

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