What Is a Tube Sheet for a Heat Exchanger?

Tube sheet diagram from a forged pressure vessel manufacturer
2020 February1

Tube sheets are a series of thin walled tubes inside of an enclosed, tubular pressure vessel. These pressure vessels, commonly referred to as shell and tube heat exchangers, are the most common heat exchangers used in oil refineries and large chemical plants. The tube sheet itself serves as a supporting element in heat exchangers and boilers. The tube sheet is called this because the tubes–which are carefully arranged in a specific pattern–penetrate the tube sheet in multiple places to allow the fluid within these tubes to flow in and out of the heat exchanger. The fluid flowing through the tubes within the shell exchanges heat with the fluid that flows into the shell but flows past the outside of the tubes exchanging the heat with the tube fluid.

Tube sheet diagram from a forged pressure vessel manufacturer

Uses of Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

These types of heat exchangers are commonly used for cooling hydraulic fluid and oil in engines and transmissions, but can be used for heating and cooling many other applications such as the water in swimming pools and even pull waste heat from exhaust gases and funnel it into other processes, resulting in tremendous energy savings.

How Are Tube Sheets Made?

Tube sheets are typically constructed from a round flat piece of plate–usually consisting of a thermally conductive, corrosion resistant metal such as aluminum, copper, steel, nickel or some other alloy of these metals. The tube sheet then has holes drilled in the precise locations where the tubes will be within the exchanger. These are typically produced using a combination of CAD software to design and determine the exact positions of the holes, which are then drilled using a computer numerical control (CNC) machine. Next, the tubes are attached using hydraulic pressure or by roller expansion.

The tube sheet is an essential component of a shell and tube heat exchanger because it must support and isolate the fluid within them from the other fluid flowing through the shell. In some cases, where it is particularly important to prevent the tube fluid from mixing with the shell fluid, a double tube sheet might be installed within the exchanger.

FCI Provides Tube Sheets and Other Custom Pressure Vessel Component Manufacturing Services

Forged Components Inc. (FCI) is the leading pressure vessel components manufacturer specializing in forged components such as tube sheets for shell and tube heat exchangers used within the oil & gas and petrochemical industries. For more information, call us at (281) 441-4088 or contact us online if you are needing a quote from one of our sales staff.

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