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Sizing of Expansion Tank for Hot Oil System

Miss Rifka post on November 4th, 2012

Posted in Thermal Oil Heater Tags:Expansion tank , hot oil system , sizing of expansion tank

I want to share my experience about sizing of expansion tank especially for thermal oil heater. It
is quite simple actually. I will give you an example.
Function of Expansion Tank
The functions of expansion tank are:

Serves as the safe outlet for the increase in thermal fluid volume due to thermal

Provides a mechanism for venting water, incondensibles, degradation by products

and entrained air during start-up and operation

Sizing Expansion Tank


When selecting an expansion tank, the system volume (including the initial fill) of the expansion
tank, the operating temperature and the fluids coefficient of thermal expansion should all be
considered. Because thermal oils expand at different rates, the expansion tank capacity always
should be verified against the oil properties prior to filling the system.
There are some significant aspects that need to be taken care when designing the tank:

Accommodating thermal expansion of the hot oil heated from minimum to maximum
operating temperature

Maintaining the NPSHr of the hot oil circulating pumps under all operational

Venting of possible residual water present in the circuit during start-up

Allowing filling of equipment and during re-commissioning after shut down for

The expansion tank is usually elevated so that the normal operating level of the hot oil in the
vessel is higher than the highest possible hot oil level in the system.
Volume expansion is considered as difference between specific volume (m3/kg) i.e. inverse of
specific gravity of hot oil at maximum and minimum operating temperature of the system which is
required to be accommodated between Low liquid level and high liquid level of expansion tank.
An additional 20% is added to cater for various operating upsets in the systems, such as
vaporization of residual water in the system and a tube burst.
As a general rule, in the liquid phase thermal systems the volumes of expansion tank should be
approximately 26%-30% of the total estimated volume of thermal fluid in the thermal system. The
properly sized expansion tank should be approximately 1/4 full at start-up and 3/4 full at
operating temperatures.
Calculation of Hot oil Expansion Tank
Piping volume = phi (Dp/2)2Lp where Dp = pipe ID and Lp = piping length according to plot plan.
For example, as per P&ID and plot plan, total piping hold up volume and equipment hold up
volume = 8.4 m3
Consider the physical properties for commercial grade heat transfer fluid (HTF).
Expansion volume from cold start up to normal operation is considered as design case for the
If I use Therminol 62 as heat transfer fluid, then the properties is as followed.
Density at temperature 30oC = 948 kg/m3
Density at temperature 310oC = 719 kg/m3
Mass of total hold up (density at minimum operating temperature) = 8.4 x 984 = 7962.8 kg
Volume of oil required based on density at maximum operating temperature = 7962.8/719 = 11.1
Expansion volume = volume at max operating temperature volume at minimum operating
temperature = 11.1 8.4 = 2.68 m3
Then, the total volume of expansion tank is = 2.68/0.75 = 3.57 m3
By using checalc.com we can estimate the dimension of the vessel. By using above data we find:

Orientation: horizontal

Vessel head: 2:1 ellipsoidal

Length: 2938 mm

Diameter: 1175 mm (reccommended L/D for horizontal vessel is 2.5 if the design
pressure is between 0-17 barg)

Level: 815 mm

Total volume: 3.6105 m3

Filled volume: 2.6877 m3

1. Thermal system expansion tank design. http://www.radcoind.com/TechTips4.htm
2. Technical Investigation into Thermal Oil
Technology. http://www.investni.com/thermal_oil_technology_technical_investigation_r
3. Design consideration of hot
oilsystem. http://www.academia.edu/1514808/design_consideration_of_hot_oil_syste
4. Guides for vessel sizing. http://www.red-bag.com/jcms/engineering-guides/337-bn-egue109-guide-for-vessel-sizing.html