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Safety Tube Heat Exchangers

Safety tube heat exchangers – Protection against cross-contamination of process streams

Safety tube heat exchangers are heat exchangers where, in the event of tube or tube to tube plate joint failure, the system protects against cross-contamination of the two process streams. The fluid breaching the tube wall is directed into a detection system where a float switch or other instrument can activate an alarm or a trip mechanism.

Key benefits

  • Effective protection – The advantage of this construction over single tube arrangements is that early warning of tube failure is given.

  • Cost-effective –  The early indication of a fault condition leads to timely and cost-effective intervention. Whether the process is continuous or batch stream, cross-contamination would lead to expensive loss of product.

  • Quality assured – Throughout the life of the equipment, the product stream quality will be maintained. Should there be a risk of contamination when a fault condition is registered, the process can be stopped in a timely manner. Alternatively, the processed streams can be diverted to holding tanks to separate any at-risk product.


How safety tube heat exchangers work

Inner tube

In safety tube designs, a double layer of tube separates the two process streams. The inner smaller diameter tube is exposed to the tube side process stream and is expanded or welded into the main tubeplate. The method depends on a range of design criteria including pressure and corrosion potential.

Outer tube

The outer tube is sealed into a secondary tubeplate. The seal is normally achieved by expansion or by using rubber seals. At Sterling Thermal Technology, we have the capability to expand inner tubes into outer tubes, either before or after having sealed the outer tube into the tubeplate.

Interface between the inner and outer tube

The interface between the inner and outer tube has a series of grooves designed to allow any leaking fluid to flow to an interspace between the main and secondary tubeplates. From here, the leaking process fluid is routed to a leak detection chamber. The instrument fitted to detect leakage may vary depending on the application. A float switch is the most common while ultrasonic and conductive probes can also be used.

If it is essential to complete a processing run without a complete shutdown in the case of an alarm condition, the equipment can be configured as two circuits. The tube side and shell side streams can operate in parallel with the option of isolating one of the two sections on the initiation of an alarm.



Safety tube heat exchangers are particularly used for applications the following industry sectors:


If you feel you need another type of heat exchanger, visit our products and services page or contact us.

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We have used safety tube coolers in a number of critical operations and have run these in parallel to ensure we have an ongoing cooling capacity. Our discussions with Sterling have allowed us to generate the ideal solutions for our operational needs.

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