A Day in the Work Life of a Corrosion Engineer
We follow the activities of Peter on a typical workday as he performs his duties as a corrosion engineer for an oil & gas company.
As a typical corrosion engineer, Peter has a MS degree in Chemical Engineering. He has worked in the field of corrosion mitigation in the oil & gas sector for six years, and presently works for an oil major in the Middle East after beginning his career as an engineering team intern at the company's refinery division.
Reviewing Plans for the Day
Peter’s day begins with a teleconference with the operations team and engineering team. The progress of the various tasks, the day’s plans and the technical issues facing the company are reviewed during this meeting. He makes a list of critical issues that need to be escalated to the Engineering Director as well as those that can be resolved at his level after talking to several stakeholders during a site visit.
Next he reviews four items on his plate:
- The overall progress of several tasks
- The scheduled inspections for the day
- Critical site jobs that require supervision
- Critical issues and priorities
Peter briefly talks to Abbas, the Engineering Director, to make an appointment for the additional budgetary support needed for cathodic protection modifications to the gas piping system. He makes a note of the instructions received from the Abbas before replying to urgent email messages received during the morning.
Interviewing Candidates for Positions in the Company
Peter interviews three candidates for the position of Assistant Corrosion Engineer. They are Samuel, Ameena and Cynthia. He asks them about their hobbies, extracurricular activities and accomplishments during their college life. He also makes sure that the candidates have an opportunity to meet other team members as well, so that they get to know the team and the work culture. (Discover the importance of teamwork in How Better Industry Teamwork Can Reduce Premature Coating Failures.)
Peter shows them pictures of corroded parts of the pipeline and asks them to identify the types of corrosion in order to ascertain their aptitude for failure analysis and corrosion mitigation. He asks them to join him for lunch as the interview continues.
During lunch the candidates also meet Abbas. The Engineering Director asks them about their hobbies, interest in movies, music and sports, and finishes up with "What position would you like to occupy five years from now?" as his final question.
Continuing with a one-on-one interview, Peter asks each candidate to explain the basic theory of corrosion and describe a major accomplishment during their college life that gave them the most happiness. He wants to know what the candidates think about the work culture of his company.
Before making the final hiring decision, Peter also consults his team members to gauge whether any of the candidates would enjoy working in the corrosion engineering team.
The Work Site Visit
Peter visits the work site to monitor the coating application being performed by a contractor on the new oil pipelines. He talks to his interns, contractor technicians and supervisors onsite about the importance of adhering to specifications and procedures related to surface preparation and surface checking before applying the primer. He ensures that safety regulations and quality standards are fully understood by the appropriate personal. (Learn more in Writing Safety into Your Coating Specification and What Does Quality Control Mean in the Corrosion and Coatings Industry?)
Tackling a Breakdown of the Cathodic Protection System
There is an urgent message from the cathodic protection station of the refinery pipelines. Samkutty, the technician in charge, reports that the cathodic protection system has broken down. Peter looks at the electrical drawings and discusses the situation with Hameed, the Electrical Engineer, to determine the root cause of the problem. He makes sure that the necessary spare parts are made available for the repair job on a priority basis.
Material Selection for the New Pipeline
For a new project involving underground gas piping, Peter discusses material selection with the design engineers. The ultimate choice is based on the site's soil conditions (corrosivity) and the feasibility of providing an appropriate paint system and cathodic protection. The team considers the life cycle cost of the piping system with different materials inclusive of the estimated maintenance cost and failure costs.
Discussions with Coating Suppliers
Peter has invited some coating suppliers to give presentations about their newly developed coating products for the oil & gas sector. One of the coating producers talks about chemically bonded phosphate ceramic coatings (CBPC), which are intended to provide exceptional bonding strength with a carbon steel substrate. The new coating saves surface preparation time as well as curing time to minimize the total equipment downtime required to apply the coating. This ceramic film is described as having better resistance to fire, abrasion, high temperature, moisture, impact load and general corrosion as compared to polymer coatings.
Peter’s team members ask the supplier to provide details of a successful application of CBPC coatings in the oil & gas sector. The supplier promises to provide the results of a recent case study. (For an example see Case Studies of a Novel Elastomer for Cavitation Resistance.)
Diagnosing Electrical Pitting Corrosion Failures
Basheer, the refinery division's Maintenance Engineer, talks to Peter about the pinhole type of damage seen in some high speed bearings. After a site visit, Peter confirms that induced shaft currents are responsible for the electrical pitting corrosion.
He discusses various ways of solving the problem such as a ground connection to shaft voltage through carbon brushes and the use of a conducting type of graphite lubricant (i.e., oil with a graphite suspension). Additionally, Peter’s team will research instances of electric pitting corrosion of bearings in other plants, which may inspire more ideas.
Taking Care of the Interns and Special Trainees
Peter talks with his interns and newly recruited contractor supervisors about the on-the-job safety precautions and accident prevention measures. Besides safety, he provides advice about learning the jobs quickly and improving technical skills, and then invites the listeners to provide suggestions about how to improve safety and productivity. He checks the intern's on-the-job learning diaries and compliments them for their good work.
The engineering division's Special Trainees (UAE Nationals Training scheme) meet with Peter to discuss their learning and development plan and the technical skill evaluation that will be held next month. Peter explains the details of the skill evaluation and its importance to their career development. He asks them to make suggestions regarding improvements to their training schedule. (Related reading: Joe Payer: Preparing the Corrosion Engineers of Tomorrow.)
Planning Fun Events and Seminars
The corrosion engineering team is looking forward to the fortnightly fun event, a family get-together followed by lunch, which is scheduled for this weekend. Peter coordinates the event with help from the Human Resources team. He asks his team members for suggestions for the event.
Peter is a member of the organizing committee for the UAE Corrosion Engineering Seminar that is scheduled for the end of the month. He asks his team members to complete and submit their research papers in time for the seminar. As a member of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers International (NACE), Peter stays abreast of recent developments in his field of expertise.
Ultrasonic Inspection of Pipelines
Peter supervises the scheduled ultrasonic corrosion testing of gas pipes. Ultrasonic testing provides reliable information about the pipeline's health, deterioration of the coating system and the expected remaining lifespan of the piping system.
Peter then plans a corrosion inspection of offshore assets for the next week. The plan includes manpower requirements, equipment and cost.
Reviewing Coating Repair Specifications
Peter reviews the coating repair job specification for the refinery division. The specification includes the scope of the work, quality standards and the mandatory inspection procedures.
Closing the Day on a Happy Note
Peter congratulates the coating repair team and the inspection teams for completing today's job on time and within budget. He prepares an executive summary of the corrosion inspection report for the day along with suggested mitigation plans, and emails it to Abbas.
Apart from planning and supervising corrosion monitoring and mitigation activities, Peter, as a Corrosion Engineer, takes a keen interest in the intern's training. He allocates time to organize engineering seminars and fun events for his team members and their families. While conducting the interviews, he tries to ascertain whether the candidates will enjoy working on the corrosion engineering team.
Peter emphasizes safety and regulatory compliance training for third party contractors and the company's interns, as well as quality standards related to surface preparation, coating formulation, coating application and curing. He divides his work time between planning, inspection, site supervision, troubleshooting and failure analysis activities. He resolves critical issues through discussion with stakeholders such as the operations team, engineering teams, coating suppliers and contractors.
Written by Shivananda Prabhu
Shivananda Prabhu is a Graduate Engineer from the University of Mysore, Karnataka, India and PGDBM (Equivalent to MBA) from XLRI, a top-ten management institute. He previously worked for Tata Steel, Jamshedpur, in the area of maintenance as a Manager and Specialist in tribology, lubrication, wear prevention, corrosion prevention, maintenance management and condition monitoring. He has contributed to loss prevention and value engineering as well as knowledge management initiatives.
He later worked as a Technical Trainer, Safety Trainer, Lead Auditor of ISO 9001, ISO 14001, Management Trainer, and Training and HR specialist.
For about four years he worked in academics in PG institutions, as a Professor and later as Director of IPS (Management Institute) in Pune. He also worked for three years as an editor and writer for research papers, newspapers, trade journals and websites. Overall his experience spans more than 25 years.