In order to explore tube-side heat transfer characteristics in the spiral wound heat exchange (SWHE) used in liquid natural gas (LNG) plants, the study on zeotropic hydrocarbon mixtures condensation heat transfer in a helical pipe is proposed. Firstly, based on two-fluid model and thermal phase change model, a numerical method coupling with empirical correlations is established to predict condensation heat transfer for zeotropic mixtures, in which the mixed effects are taken into account. Meanwhile, the rationality of the above methods is verified based on existing experimental results. Then, the effects of refrigerant components and operating parameters on flow patterns, heat transfer coefficients and heat and mass transfer resistance are discussed as the ranges of mass flux, saturation pressure and vapor quality are 200–800 kg/(m2·s), 2–4MPa and 0.15–0.90, respectively. It can be found that the predicted results coincide with the experimental ones, with deviations within ±15%. For different zeotropic hydrocarbon mixtures, as the vapor quality increases, the stratified flow, half-annular flow and annular flow appears in turn. The condensation heat transfer coefficients are always smaller than film heat transfer coefficients owing to the existence of heat and mass transfer resistance in vapor core. Besides, both film and condensation heat transfer coefficients increase with the increase of vapor quality and mass flux, while decrease with the rise in saturation pressure. Further, heat and mass transfer resistances increase as the vapor quality and saturation pressure increase and the mass flux decreases. In addition, compared to methane/ethane/propane/nitrogen (65/25/5/5, mole%) mixture, the averaged heat transfer performance for methane/ethane (90/10, mole%) mixture improves by 19.55%, whereas, the average heat and mass transfer resistance decreases by 53.51%. This study is helpful for understanding the zeotropic mixtures condensation in tubes and gives some suggestions for the choice of refrigerant components used in LNG SWHE, to design more effective SWHE.

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