Computational fluid dynamics was used to search for the links between the observed pattern of attack seen in a bauxite refinery's heat exchanger headers and the hydrodynamics inside the header. Validation of the computational fluid dynamics results was done by comparing then with flow parameters measured in a 1:5 scale model of the first pass header in the laboratory. Computational fluid dynamics simulations were used to establish hydrodynamic similarity between the 1:5 scale and full scale models of the first pass header. It was found that the erosion-corrosion damage seen at the tubesheet of the first pass header was a consequence of increased levels of turbulence at the tubesheet caused by a rapidly turning flow. A prismatic flow corrections device introduced in the past helped in rectifying the problem at the tubesheet but exaggerated the erosion-corrosion problem at the first pass header shell. A number of alternative flow correction devices were tested using computational fluid dynamics. Axial ribbing in the first pass header and an inlet flow diffuser have shown the best performance and were recommended for implementation. Computational fluid dynamics simulations have revealed a smooth orderly low turbulence flow pattern in the second, third and fourth pass as well as the exit headers where no erosion-corrosion was seen in practice. This study has confirmed that near-wall turbulence intensity, which can be successfully predicted by using computational fluid dynamics, is a good hydrodynamic predictor of erosion-corrosion damage in complex geometries. (c) 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd.