Finite Element Analysis for Tubesheet Design in Fire-Tube Waste Heat Boilers

heat tube diagram

Finite Element Analysis for Tubesheet Design in Fire-Tube Waste Heat Boilers


Heat exchangers, including fire-tube waste heat boilers, play a crucial role in the energy sector. Their performance and reliability can be dependent upon the design of the tubesheet, a critical component exposed to high temperatures and pressures. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) has emerged as a powerful tool to assist in optimizing the tubesheet design. This article explores the application of FEA in tubesheet design for fire-tube waste heat boilers.

Understanding Fire-Tube Waste Heat Boilers

Fire-tube waste heat boilers are sophisticated heat exchangers designed to recover heat from flue gases produced in industrial processes. The tubesheet is a key component that separates the shell side and the tube side in these boilers. It is exposed to high thermal and mechanical stress, making its design crucial for the waste heat boiler’s overall performance and longevity.

The tubesheet’s design considerations include temperature distribution, pressure distribution, and the resulting stress distribution. Traditional design methods, based on the empirical approach, have limitations due to the evolving complexity of industrial applications.

The Role of Finite Element Analysis

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a numerical method used to solve complex structural, thermal, and fluid dynamics problems. It divides a large problem into smaller, simpler, ‘finite’ parts, or elements. When applied to tubesheet design, FEA allows engineers to simulate different operating conditions and understand how the tubesheet will respond to changes in temperature, pressure, and mechanical stress.

FEA in Tubesheet Design

The process of using FEA in tubesheet design involves creating a 3D model of the tubesheet. Material properties, boundary conditions, and loadings are then defined. The model is then divided into finite elements. After that, the FEA software solves the equations for each element, providing a detailed picture of stress, temperature, and pressure distribution across the tubesheet.

By visualizing these distributions, engineers can identify potential problem areas, such as high-stress concentrations or hot spots, and modify the design accordingly. This proactive approach to design can prevent catastrophic failure and extend the lifespan of the waste heat boiler.

Example Case: FEA for Optimizing Tubesheet Design

Consider an example where a waste heat boiler’s tubesheet suffered from frequent cracking. By applying FEA, engineers discovered that the cracks were due to high thermal stresses near the tube-to-tubesheet weld joints. The traditional design did not account for this.

The engineers used the insight gained from the FEA to modify the tubesheet design, redistributing the thermal stresses more evenly. The updated design also included a new welding technique that reduced thermal stress at the tube-to-tubesheet joints.


Finite Element Analysis has revolutionized the design process of tubesheets in fire-tube waste heat boilers. By providing a detailed insight into the temperature, pressure, and stress distribution, FEA allows engineers to optimize the tubesheet design, enhance boiler performance, and improve operational longevity. As industrial processes continue to evolve, the application of advanced numerical methods like FEA will become increasingly important in maintaining the safety and efficiency of heat transfer equipment like waste heat boilers.

Contact Altex to Discuss Your Waste Heat Boilers and Maintenance

Are you looking for experts to guide you through your waste heat boiler design and maintenance needs? Contact Altex now! Our experienced team can provide tailored solutions that align with your specific requirements and challenges.