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, maintenance planning, specification development, and failure analysis.
A proactive coatings management program collects condition data on every item in facilities in order to make smart decisions on maintenance. The key goals are to extend the service life of coatings, reduce costly unexpected downtime incidents, and increase safety of operations. In this Q&A, Terry Greenfield explains how facility managers often approach coatings and corrosion management in reactive ways that can lead to higher long-term costs and introduce undue risks to asset integrity, safety and the environment.
Q: How can facilities change this paradigm?
A: The first step is to develop a strategy - a philosophy if you will. What are you trying to achieve? Some programs, even if they are trying to be proactive, are ultimately driven by how much money they have.
There’s a great story that illustrates this. After the Deepwater Horizon spill, the U.S. Minerals Management Service agency was restructured as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which now has oversight for offshore platform operations. Before that time, I worked with those guys on inspection training for NACE International. We were talking with their head of structural engineering, and he said they had a simple A-B-C rating system for asset condition that owners were required to report to the MMS:
- A – they don’t have to do anything within 3 years
- B – they have to do something within 3 years
- C – they have to do something within 1 year
This is the most fundamental condition assessment: A is good, B is generally OK (but plan now for some maintenance), and C is that there is a problem that has to be dealt with (and plan to address it this year).
The MMS engineer and one of the owners were having a conversation and the engineer said, “I’ve looked at your surveys, and you have all Bs, but I’ve seen your platforms, and you’ve got some Cs.” The owner replied, “But I don’t have any money. If I report Cs, I have to have money to deal with it, so I’ll make them all Bs.”
That’s the opposite of the proper approach. The object of a good program is to deal with the issues and not be driven by funding. If there isn't a well-understood and well-engineered program, then it will just be budget-driven. Therefore, you may not have enough money to do what’s really required to have an effective program.
So those are two things that don’t track when people say they have a coatings program, and both are purely reactive. One is driven by degradation; the other is driven by available funding. Neither of these will end up being ultra-successful.
Therefore, the approach to success is to really look at the assets to understand the life cycle of the coatings.
What’s expected? We look at specifications and how to pick the right coatings for the particular asset: environment, service life, etc. Ultimately, when we make those decisions, we’re considering the service environment, where that asset has to live, and then we look at the type of coating system based on the expected life per the owner’s expectations. Do they want it to last five years, 15 years, 20 years? The coating system decision is made accordingly.
Q: How do you "fix" coating systems that are nearing the end of their service life?
A: This is where the reality of the situation becomes backwards. People are so driven to look at what’s bad and the worst, they may miss the opportunity to extend the life cycle of other old coating systems.
This sounds counter-intuitive; having structures that are marginal may look really horrible, but in reality they are still performing. It may be a case where there is no risk of operational issues, safety issues, or anything else - they just look really bad. At the same time, you may have other areas where you could use this year’s budget to do spot repairs and over coating, thereby extending their coating life out maybe another 10 years.
So in a well-understood program, we’re not going to spend the money on the worst-looking areas; rather, we’ll repair other assets where we have the opportunity to capture a large portion to push out for a longer service life, while always keeping safety and operational integrity at the forefront.
But how do you go to your managers and say: “Hey, I’m not going to paint that ugly thing you see every day on your drive into the plant. I’m not going to deal now with that with the money you gave me this year. I’m going to wait until next year. Here’s why that’s going to be a better approach”?
These are extremes. But this puts the finger on a necessary philosophy to develop what you’re truly trying to achieve: longer service life from your coatings. However, most people don’t grasp this, because it’s counter-intuitive.
Q: What are some other basics to launching a successful coatings program?
A: For a program to be successful, it has to have corporate buy-in at the highest levels. They need to say, “We’re going to develop a Coatings Asset Management program because we can save money, look better to our customers, and we can proactively address conditions in order to not have problems.”
If you look at five facilities and they were all rated Cs, then the objective every year would be to raise that rating. If all of the facilities are Cs, then the composite score is C. So the next year you do some work and have a few that are Bs, which means you raise your composite score to C+.
The goal is to raise that grade every year while being safe and maintaining integrity, and while all operation issues are addressed. Then the program isn’t ultimately just about plugging the dyke. It’s about stepping up; where you’re using the money in the best way you can to elevate your composite grade at all of your facilities on an annual basis.
You may have to invest more in the beginning, but over a period of time, a good program can pay for itself. I’ve got some graphs where you start to see a flat line where there’s some incremental costs, but not all these huge spikes after major asset refurbishment costs. Instead of having to completely blast and paint an offshore platform every 7 years, you figure out how to make it go 15 years.
There are two cases to illustrate that in the offshore industry:
- We were working with one of the offshore majors, and putting a program together for them. They told us, “You know, our program is real simple. Right now, it’s every 7 years we just blast and our platforms get a new paint job.” The question is: how much money would he save if he could get it to 12 years?
- I did surveys on two offshore platforms in the South China Sea about 8 years ago. This was a joint venture project involving a U.S. major, and they did everything right: They had a program, they made good coating selections, used qualified people and NACE-certified coating inspectors, and when they built it, they did it right. They installed the coating and from the day it was installed, every year they would send out a maintenance crew. Proactive maintenance was dialed into their annual program. So when I looked at the platforms after 12 years’ service, they could have stopped doing another thing and gotten another 8 years out of their coatings. Their program included hand and power tools only (no abrasive blasting); they just had a five-man crew out for a few weeks every year doing spot repairs.
So their philosophy was pretty simple: “We’ve learned a lot of lessons, let’s do it right. We know there will be facility modifications; we know we’re going to have damage to the coating system, so we’ll bring somebody out once a year to do structured maintenance. We’re going to accept that it was money well spent.” So in the long run, they may be able to go 20 years without any major refurbishment. This program was in addition to the required annual surveys.
How much money can a program like this save? Spread over 20 years, it would be less than 5 percent of the cost of doing those seven-year total refurbishments.
Q: Have you seen a coatings program that was the absolute ideal - cradle to grave?
A: Kennedy Space Center had a great program. The problem they had for a long time was the shuttle launch structures. They are located in an aggressive seacoast environment, and when the solid rocket booster went off, the exhaust residue produced an acidic environment. Then they used deluge water so they had all the acidic fallout in solution with water. A really aggressive corrosion environment.
But more than anything, think about what they were doing. They were responsible for a launch structure with people on board the shuttle craft, and expensive equipment.
They had all these problems and their program solved them. They were so dialed in to proactively managing their coatings and they used a software program to manage it. With coatings asset management, you have to have a tool to manage all the myriad complex things you’re looking at over time. Costs and deferred costs. Problems to address. They needed to see it all and make decisions that would give them more bang for the buck.
Coatings and corrosion degradation isn’t linear; it’s exponential. So if I look at seven items and determine what my degradation level will be next year, and the year after, I can figure what the associated costs would be. It may turn out to be three or four times the cost if we don’t address the problems this year.
BASE.COATT allowed them to be dialed in, up to the highest level of detail. Everything had to have a green light from the software that the tower was dead-on and everything was good for launch.
Before developing a corporate philosophy on how to manage the complexities, I don’t think anyone really understands the details. But with the software, the numbers are in black and white on paper.
It wasn’t just Bob or Peggy trying to pitch their case. At that point in time, they started to see that the coatings asset management budget needed to have a certain value. With the data in hand, they were able to get the money they needed to do it effectively. In the long term, it was much more efficient and saved a lot of money for the agency.
Coatings asset management starts with a proactive philosophy and a high-level decision to take responsibility for the integrity of every item in a facility. Doing this over a period of time can extend coating life cycles and maximize uptime, which in turn provides greater returns on coating installation investments. Software solutions are often needed to keep tabs on the vast details involved in monitoring and maintaining facility-wide coatings and their associated costs. In the next articles in the series, we will look at the seven fundamental components of a coatings asset program.
More in the Coatings Asset Management Best Practices series: