Compact Heat Exchangers and Their Usage in the Process Industry

November 7, 2022

Compact heat exchangers and their usage in the process industry have gained a lot of attention and significance of late due to the rising temperatures of exhaust gases and other chemicals. The manufacturing heat exchangers industry is mostly dependent on steam, which generates much waste heat. A compact heat exchanger can be used for this purpose by its compact structure. This article provides insight into the use of compact heat exchangers in the process industry.

What is a Compact Heat Exchanger?

A compact heat exchanger is a type of heat exchanger that has high-density metal fins. They are used for cooling, heating, and reducing the overall size of the equipment.

Types of Compact Heat Exchangers

Plate and Frame Heat Exchangers

These are made of flat plates joined together by welding or brazing. The plates have a hole in the center to allow fluid passage. They have multiple layers that allow for better thermal conductivity, resulting in higher efficiency. These plates are usually made from aluminum, stainless steel, or copper. 

Brazed Plate Heat Exchangers

These are similar to plate and frame heat exchangers but use a different material for their construction. They have a thin layer of brazing sandwiched between two layers of metal with holes drilled through it. It prevents fluid from passing through the braze layer but allows it to pass through other layers.

Plate-Fin Heat Exchangers

Plate-fin heat exchangers are made of high-quality steel and have rounded edges instead of flat edges like plates. It makes them more efficient at transferring heat than their counterparts, which usually have sharp edges on their fins that can trap air bubbles and make them less efficient at transferring heat.

Brazed Plate-Fin Heat Exchangers

Brazed plate-fin heat exchangers consist of an outer cylinder with fins and an inner cylinder with fins. The outer cylinder is mounted around an inner cylinder and bolted into place using brazing welding technology.

The Usage of Compact Heat Exchangers in the Process Industry

Compact heat exchangers are a critical part of the process industry. The application of these units is widespread and can be found in many industrial processes.

The benefits of using compact heat exchangers are numerous:

  • They are less expensive than conventional systems and offer better efficiency. Compact heat exchangers can be used on more minor scales, which makes them easier to install and manage. 
  • Compact heat exchangers provide a high degree of flexibility since you can easily modify them depending on the process parameters. 
  • Compact heat exchangers can also improve energy efficiency by replacing costly electrical heating with more efficient heating elements such as resistance heating or steam sterilization.

There are many applications for compact heat exchangers in the process industry. 

The following is a list of some of the more common applications: 


Compact heat exchangers can cool the refrigerant from an air compressor to a heat exchanger. The refrigerant then passes through the heat exchanger and is cooled before entering the evaporator coil.

Textiles and Fabrication Engineering

Compact heat exchangers are also used to reduce water or steam temperature in textile manufacturing and fabrication engineering processes. It helps improve product quality and increases yield by reducing damage caused by overheating.

Mechanical Vapor Recompression

Heat exchangers are also used in MVR systems to remove entrained air from compressor systems before returning it into the process stream.

Chemicals and Petrochemicals

Compact heat exchangers are commonly used in chemical processes because they offer a simple solution for removing entrained air from compressor systems without causing damage to equipment or chemicals themselves. They can even be installed in open-top vessels without additional insulation requirements, making them ideal for processing volatile substances within open-top vessels such as distillation columns.

Food and Drinks

The compact heat exchangers used in this industry are responsible for maintaining a stable temperature at various places during food storage and transportation so that manufacturers can preserve these products under different conditions without any damage or spoiling them.

Heating and Cooling

In the manufacturing heat exchangers industry, compact heat exchangers are used in production lines to control the temperature at different stages of production. They are also used in environments with high humidity or steam pressure levels. In this case, the system must withstand high-temperature fluctuations without causing damage to the equipment or material being processed. Compact heat exchangers can be installed in closed systems without access for maintenance personnel.

Also, Read: What is the Ideal Temperature for Commercial Freezers?

Air Compressor

Compact heat exchangers are also employed in air compressors as they offer additional benefits such as increased efficiency due to their small size and low weight compared with conventional equipment.

Oil and Gas Processing

Compact heat exchangers are also commonly used in oil and gas processing plants because they allow oilfield workers to extract more oil from their wells during drilling operations. Any toxic element present in the crude may need to be removed through treatment with chemicals such as alkalis or acids before they can be processed into usable products such as petrol or diesel fuels. These chemicals can cause damage if they are not appropriately removed during processing. Thus, compact heat exchangers are used to heat these chemicals to evaporate them away, leaving only purer products behind.

Compact heat exchangers can provide better technology to handle the increasing demands of manufacturing heat exchangers. They are known to meet the requirements for pressure and temperature differences, flow rates, and chemical compatibility with steam, oil, and other gases. They are lightweight, maintenance-free, strong, and fast to install.

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