Jim Feather, current vice president and incoming president of NACE International, has provided a thorough overview of the top challenges facing the corrosion industry as it relates to the oil and gas pipeline sector. Here are his top five concerns:
1. Changes in U.S. domestic fossil energy production have dramatically changed the pipeline transmission business model. As the industry has moved to produce and bring to market these unconventional oil and natural gas resources, expectations for safety, environmental responsibility, reliability and efficiency have increased both in the eyes of regulators and the general public.
2. In the United States, regulations on pipelines are gradually becoming stricter, which is forcing companies to devote more resources to corrosion monitoring and control. Clear open dialogue between industry and regulators is paramount to ensuring there is no uncertainty about any changes to regulations.
3. Along those same lines, outside the United States other governments are making more effort to optimize the use of their infrastructure investments by investing in corrosion control. We foresee this happening through regulations which may be based on consensus standards such as those from NACE International. However, these standards are not intended to serve as regulatory documents so there will be increasing scrutiny of all related standards to ensure they are applicable within the regulatory environment where they are used.
4. In the face of increasing demand for corrosion control technology the industry is confronting a challenging future as many lifelong corrosion experts near retirement, potentially leaving a shortage of professionals to carry the load. We call the coming wave of retirements the “silver tsunami.” Aside from resulting in many open positions, these retirements will also mean the loss of a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge. However, this trend also creates a tremendous opportunity for new talent to enter the field. We have seen young people entering the industry who have proven that they can become very effective and productive in a short period of time with the proper training. It’s just that more of them are needed to enter the industry. NACE International is particularly proud of our success in educating those new to the field while at the same time providing opportunities for the experienced to convey their know-how to the next generation of professionals.
5. Despite the proven return on investment of corrosion control measures, investment in corrosion control is often neglected. Governments, and in some cases businesses, do not want to invest in the prevention, repair or eventual replacement of assets that are vulnerable to corrosion, especially infrastructure, and are being patched up with short-term fixes.
Read more about pipeline corrosion issues.