Application parameters usually determine which design is most effective for the task. Here are a few variables to consider:
Liquid flow and pressure drop
A tubular heat exchanger will generally allow greater amounts of liquid through the unit with relatively lower pressure drop than compared to a plate heat exchanger, the dense plate packs of which act as a restriction barrier.
Due to the thin plates and chevron designs of their dense plate packages, plate heat exchangers have a high heat transfer to surface ratio, which means that these exchangers can be more beneficial for applications with lower temperature differentials or where a close temperature approach is required.
For plate and frame heat exchangers, if the frame permits, additional plates can be added on site to an existing unit to increase the heating surface.
Resistant to winter conditions
Industries such as oil and gas prefer to use thick shell & tube heat exchangers due to the robustness and flexibility of the design. There is a wider scope in tubular designs than compared to plate designs, which allows the product to be better adapted to the specific customer needs.
Plate packages in plate and frame exchangers can be removed, cleaned or replaced.
Tube bundles in shell & tube heat exchangers can also be removed, cleaned or replaced.
The level of maintenance depends on the design that the customer determines.
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