A NACE International instructor and trainer in corrosion assessment, Terry Greenfield has 40 years’ experience in protective coatings across the marine, oil & gas, transportation, military and other sectors. Through his company, CorroMetrics Services, Inc., he currently provides program and project management, quality assurance, condition assessment and maintenance planning, specification development, failure analysis, expert witness and training services.
In this introductory interview, Greenfield offers insights on the proper management of coatings and on conducting condition surveys to collect baseline data on all items in a facility.
Q: In a nutshell, what is coatings asset management?
A: If you think about facilities of any sort, they’ll have assets that use coatings or paint to protect them from corrosion damage. It can be refineries, or water tanks, or oil tanks, ships, whatever it may be. They are using coatings to protect those assets so they get a reasonable service life, or at least the engineered service life.
And if you ask any asset owner or facility manager today, “Do you have a coatings program?” most would say, “Sure we have a coatings program.” And they do — and it’s most likely reactive. They deal with critical problems. When they see things get into a bad state, then they figure out what they’re going to do to repair or maintain it. So, they are not managing corrosion. Corrosion is managing them.
The fundamental aspect of a coatings program is taking a proactive approach to achieve integrity so there is no risk to health, safety, and the environment from that asset. And operational uptime is also maximized to keep the asset available for use and making money for the owner.
Here’s the opposite of good coatings asset management: Not proactively maintaining an asset to avoid unexpected downtime due to corrosion issues caused by reactive coating maintenance. So that is the fundamental difference — trying to be pre-emptive in maintaining coatings to avoid expensive surprises.
Q: What are some of the basic elements of a good coatings management program?
A: Inspection is a fundamental element of coatings asset management. There are actually seven spokes of the wheel, things that support the program. We’ll get into all of those later, but here are some of the basics:
- Tried-and-true qualified materials
- Trained coating applicators
- Good specifications
- Qualified inspection during application to ensure the coatings are properly installed
The expectation is that the coatings are going to perform. But the reality is that nothing is perfect.
A good coatings program typically looks after the first year of installation with surveys. In some cases a one-year warranty is based on that one-year survey. They look at the coating, how it is performing. If you capture problems and address them right away that first year, then you can get into a very long performance period where there are no issues.
Interestingly, the human mortality rate is illustrated by what is called the Bathtub Curve. What it establishes is that in the first year you may find problems. So there could be this little bundle of maintenance activity the first year to make sure those things are all repaired. This may be called warranty work. Then, over a period of time, you can see an expectation where there is very little damage if it’s been properly installed.
In a facility, you have lots of objects. Typically they are not all going to be painted at the same time, so they’ll be at various evolutions of their life cycle. A good program captures when work needs to be done. So for five, six, seven years we won’t have to do anything. We still may want to do a survey — but that’s a different kind of inspection.
Q: What is involved in inspection and surveying for a facility-wide program where coatings are at various stages of their service life?
A: We typically do risk-based inspection surveys to see how each item is performing. What is the danger if there’s a breach of containment? If a system goes down, the operating environment may be more critical to the coatings performance. In such cases, there may need to be a more frequent rate of inspection. We want to make sure it’s in acceptable shape so that it won’t lead to failure. When things are performing well, we may only look at those items every three years.
Let’s say you stepped into a facility that has been operating for 10 years under a reactive coatings management philosophy. You could expect to find problems, and areas that might even be critical. We use the term hot spots, where there is imminent danger to safety, loss of containment, harm to the environment, harm to personnel, operational downtime. You may find those, and you’re going to put Band-Aids on them immediately, then deal with them. No way around it.
With other items, you may want to take what you have and extend the life cycles. If a coating was designed with a 15-year life cycle and you’re at 10 years, now you’re two-thirds of the way through so you may start seeing a greater density of corrosion.
Q: Is adequate training available now for this type of inspection and survey work?
A: Actually, I call this “in-service inspection” as opposed to “in-process inspection.” In-service inspection requires a unique skillset. Some NACE Level 3 inspectors may be qualified to do that work, but this isn’t necessarily the best training or qualification because it doesn’t address what to look for with coatings as they degrade in service. The NACE program addresses new coatings installation, or in-process inspection techniques exclusively.
NACE International does have the Offshore Corrosion Assessment Training and the Shipboard Corrosion Assessment Training programs that offer certifications that equip people more to do condition surveys. They teach what to look for, grading systems, how you should rate things, and enable you to put together an idea of a program where you’re really trying to manage your assets to keep them at a certain condition level.
Q: Who is involved in managing coatings at most facilities today?
A: In most companies, the coating program is “Bob” or “Jim” or “Peggy.” It’s a person. They deal with the issues how they think they should, but coatings are seldom managed in a system where someone else could step in, and either continue it or modify it to make it better.
Most programs are individual-centric. Peggy has just so much budget, and she has to figure out how to spend it the best way, because there is no set philosophy in what we’re trying to achieve. There isn’t a corporate-level strategy that says, “This is how we’re going to handle it.”
Q: What role do regulators play in all this?
A: Two industries are heavily regulated in terms of surveys and rating systems, and that’s offshore and marine. But regulators simply require baseline surveys to ensure safety and environmental risks are minimized.
Offshore and marine regulations don’t really tie into a successful program, it’s just these industries are required to have surveys. Pipeline is required to do corrosion surveys and refineries are also heavily regulated across the board. Shipping regulation is a little different, there is specific language.
Some industries have understood the criticality, but that’s a stop-gap measure. All the regulators are trying to do is protect people and the environment from the worst disasters. When industry doesn’t take on the responsibility of managing itself, the regulators step in and put in minimums.
Regulatory should not drive integrity and asset management. It’s something that has to be addressed, but when you strictly drive your coatings asset management program based on regulatory requirements, you’re only doing the minimums.
Coatings asset management is a proactive program designed to collect condition data on every item in facilities in order to make smart decisions on maintenance. The key goals of coatings asset management are to extend the service life of coatings, reduce costly unexpected downtime incidents, and increase safety of operations. In the next article in the series, we will look at the key strategies necessary to establishing an effective coatings program.
More in the Coatings Asset Management Best Practices series: