Unveiling Root Causes of Chemistry and Performance Problems by Putting Condensers Under a Microscope

Harpster, J.W., Harpster, T.J., & Welch, W.C.

“Unveiling Root Causes of Chemistry and Performance Problems by Putting Condensers Under a Microscope” 19th Annual Southwest Chemistry Workshop, San Diego, CA, June 8 – June 10, 2010.


The results obtained from Condenser Monitoring Systems installed at multiple operating units are presented. The Condenser Monitoring System is comprised of unique measurement instruments that eliminate the need to make several assumptions necessary to measure condenser performance for comparison with design predictions. These direct comparisons unveil root cause issues responsible for elevated condensate dissolved gases, diminished condenser heat transfer and undesirable sensitivity to low levels of air in leakage. The results of recent studies provide justification for corrective action through condenser retrofit methods. Results from a condenser retrofit will be presented that show how an existing condenser design was modified providing an unprecedented immunity to air in-leakage, maximum measured overall heat transfer coefficients (thus lower condenser pressure, and emissions) and predictably low condensate dissolved gases. The measured results further highlight the important fact that condenser performances regardless of vintage, can achieve theoretical performance optimization from a well designed retrofit during a retubing, providing a benefit over rebundling. Obviously, should the conditions of the existing condenser be such that replacement, retubing or rebundling becomes necessary the design methods employed for retrofit optimization can be applied to either of these three options with outstanding performance benefits and greatly extend operating life.

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