Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles concerning research developments in the oil and gas business.
To hear Harvey Hack tell it, engineers like he, by their very nature, are not the best subjects for interviews.
“Do you know how to pick an extroverted engineer out of a crowd?” he asked with a wink at the NACE International Corrosion conference in San Antonio, TX. “It’s easy. He’s the one looking at someone else’s shoes when he talks.”
Hack, NACE International’s president this year, is anything but a wallflower when discussing the rapidly changing landscape of corrosion prevention and NACE International, the 33,000-member organization he has been part of for almost 40 years.
For example, of NACE International’s recent rapid growth he eagerly offered, “We were once a society of engineers that put on a conference, published and presented papers. Now we are principally a source of corrosion-related knowledge, much of that delivered online.”
In this interview, the senior advisory engineer for Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Undersea Systems discussed not only the challenges of serving such a growing and diverse organization, but also the complexities of informing a membership from 130 countries that speaks so many different languages.
The former chairman of the NACE Certification Committee, the Annapolis, MD resident also addressed the need to attract more young people into the corrosion-prevention industry, the outlook on the regulatory front and what he sees as the most pressing issues facing NACE International.
P&GJ: What are your priorities during your term?
Hack: I like to see myself as a relationship-builder. I’ve been using my time as vice president, and hope to continue as president, to build relationships between NACE International and other organizations that share our mission throughout the world. As the largest organization of corrosion professionals and the recognized world authority in corrosion control, we are sometimes perceived as the “800-pound gorilla” when we meet with other organizations. We are particularly sensitive to the needs and desires of organizations working toward the same goals as NACE International. No matter the size of the organization, we can, and must, establish mutually beneficial relationships that further our mission to protect people, assets and the environment from corrosion. In many cases, this involves consideration of cultural differences and perspectives.
English is not the first language in any of the region where we have offices outside the United States. We must offer our written, education and certification products in the local language and translate with sensitivity to local culture if we are to continue to bring valuable corrosion-control training, education and standards beyond the English-speaking world.
This means employing and training instructors in the areas where courses are taught; ensuring course materials are translated and adapted to the local language and is in keeping with cultural expressions and customs. Specific terminology doesn’t always have corresponding words from language to language, which makes this a challenge.
I would like to see our Chinese language website grow and to explore creating websites in other languages as our resources allow. For our non-English-speaking membership to grow, we must provide them with value for their membership fee. This involves an increasing presence of NACE International staff outside of the United States.
P&GJ: Do you see any changes coming in regulations or the industry – either in North America or elsewhere – likely to affect the corrosion business in the coming year?
Hack: The environment is changing as more countries are producing regulations. Within the United States, pipeline regulations are gradually becoming stricter, forcing companies to devote more resources to corrosion monitoring and control.
There are indications that other governments are becoming more interested in optimizing the use of their infrastructure investments by investing in corrosion control. They will likely accomplish this through regulations. Consensus standards, such as those from NACE International, are not necessarily written as regulatory documents, so there will be increasing scrutiny of our standards when they are cited in regulations to ensure they are applicable in the regulatory environment.
P&GJ: Does energy-related infrastructure comprise more of NACE International’s attention?
Hack: Energy-related infrastructure has always been a large part of NACE International since our founding in 1943 by 11 oil pipeline corrosion engineers. It remains an important part of what we do today. Over the years, NACE International has been involved in energy source alternatives to oil and gas, including geothermal, solar and wind. Corrosion control in wind energy generation is getting increased attention, especially since wind farms are being put offshore.
P&GJ: Are operating companies stepping up efforts to protect their facilities from corrosion?
Hack: Yes. The economics of corrosion control are becoming more obvious, with a high return on investment for corrosion-control activities being the norm. Companies are realizing they can save money by investing upfront in corrosion engineering, so they are voluntarily stepping up their efforts.
As safety issues are highlighted in the media, the social costs of not addressing our business are also becoming more obvious, increasing the focus on protection of assets and motivating companies to do more.
P&GJ: Do you see government, not just in the United States but worldwide, placing more emphasis on corrosion protection for pipeline assets?
Hack: Yes. Many countries where we have a presence are developing new pipeline infrastructure at a fast pace, particularly in the Middle East and China. These areas are recognizing the need for proper corrosion control early on to maximize the lifetime of that infrastructure. I see the demand for corrosion control of pipeline assets increasing worldwide for the foreseeable future.
P&GJ: Are certain regions ahead of others in meeting these demands? Is this led by governments or privately?
Hack: I mostly know about the regions that I have visited, which includes China, India and Saudi Arabia. There the push for corrosion control is spurred by industry but is implemented by the governments. Industry has recognized the need and is doing a good job of persuading government authorities that it is in the best interests of the country to protect their assets.
That being said, there are also industry leaders in those areas that recognize the value of NACE International education and certification and are starting to require it of their in-house engineering staff.
P&GJ: What effect is the continuing shale play having on the potential of pipeline corrosion, and how is this being monitored?
Hack: Shale reserves and the infrastructure development around them continue to move at an unprecedented pace, creating opportunities and challenges for pipeline companies and a high demand for corrosion professionals.
Pipeline companies are under intense scrutiny by the public and lawmakers after several high-profile incidents. With corrosion being one of the leading causes of pipeline failures, they need to stay on top of potential corrosion issues. Operators are embracing new regulations and working toward zero incidents which mean more inspections, repairs and replacing aging pipelines.
There’s an advantage to this new infrastructure development because it presents an opportunity to get corrosion control right from the get go, implementing sound design, material selection, inspection and maintenance policies from the onset.
P&GJ: Do you feel companies are doing a better job of protecting assets now, particularly pipeline assets, from corrosion?
Hack: In some industries, yes. Besides the improved job that pipeline operators are doing, refineries are starting to incorporate the cost of the associated risk of plant shutdown for corrosion repairs in their economic analyses, thus improving the return on investment (ROI) of corrosion-mitigation programs.
NACE International is becoming more interested in providing knowledge about risk analysis and ROI. At this conference I chair a forum called “Return on Investment – Practically Speaking,” which starts with a presentation by a noted risk analysis expert and includes a presentation on our forthcoming International Measures of Prevention, Application, and Economics of Corrosion Technologies (IMPACT) study.
This new study will be the most comprehensive report on corrosion costs ever and will incorporate data from several countries. A similar study on costs of corrosion was completed in 2001. That study provided valuable information while also raising several questions, including: “What does it cost to prevent corrosion, repair an asset or replace an asset?” The IMPACT study will provide that information and updates, as well as reaching into more industry sectors along with an international focus.
P&GJ: There is a growing concern industrywide about the next generation of technical professionals. Is NACE International working to address this?
Hack: I’ve been concerned about this for some time and even gave a plenary lecture at this conference a few years ago on knowledge transfer from experienced to novice engineers. NACE International has 33 different education and training programs as well as 28 certification programs and a career center to guide young professionals and individuals interested in transitioning into this field in their career search and career-building efforts.
We’re active on several social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ and host about 20 forums on our own site where members address technical questions. We also have a mentoring program, scholarship programs and travel support to our events for younger professionals. We even have a smart-phone app.
But these activities only help young people after they become corrosion professionals. To encourage new generations to become corrosion professionals the NACE International Foundation has numerous science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-focused activities. The largest is the corrosion toolkit (c-Kit) program where we provide about 1,200 c-Kits each year to the American Society for Materials (ASM) Teachers’ camps. These kits provide the materials and instructions for teachers to perform corrosion testing and demonstrations in their middle school and high school classrooms.
In this way we expose more than 25,000 students per year to corrosion-engineering concepts in a fun way. Last year, the U.S. Department of Defense opened a corrosion exhibit at the Orlando (FL) Science Center, and NACE International is working to duplicate the exhibit at other science centers worldwide.
I’ve explored the feasibility of establishing a corrosion-engineering merit badge for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to further the interests of young people in our profession. If feasible, I will take it to the NACE International Foundation for implementation.
P&GJ: Is NACE International looking to implement any new services?
Hack: We’ll be opening an office in Sao Paulo, Brazil this year and we’ve stepped up efforts to translate our materials by hiring a translation manager. Additionally, NACE International will be moving into a new building in Houston shortly which will enable us to better serve our members.
P&GJ: How has NACE International grown in recent years and what are the challenges in managing this type of growth?
Hack: NACE International has grown at a double-digit rate for at least the last 10 years, even during the recession years, and all indications are that this will remain the case for the near future. Much of this growth has come outside of the United States although we are also still growing in the U.S. The big challenge is to deliver services consistently to people worldwide.
We’ve responded to this growth by opening offices in Malaysia, China, Saudi Arabia, India and Brazil to provide support in the local languages and time zones of our members. We’re also opening a training facility in Dubai this spring. In addition to coordinating all translation activities our translation manager has started a Chinese language website while continuing to improve online access to our services.
With our high level of growth, resources become the challenge. This is a great problem to have, especially in an economic environment when many professional organizations are downsizing.
P&GJ: Is NACE International working on any research involving energy infrastructure? Who are you working with on that?
Hack: The NACE International Research Committee has representatives from all facets of the research community who are interested in corrosion. We have liaisons and members from Pipeline Research Council International, the Electric Power Research Institute and others.
We have an excellent working relationship with the Department of Defense and its research laboratories. Individuals from these organizations, as well as many universities and industrial laboratories, are members of NACE International. Our members include scientists and researchers from many academic, government and industry research centers, along with engineers and others from industry.
P&GJ: You’ve been an active member of NACE International for nearly 40 years. What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the organization?
Hack: The biggest difference is size. When I first joined NACE International it had one-tenth of the revenue and less than one-quarter of the members than it has today, and nearly all of the membership was in the United States. Home computers were not popular and cell phones did not exist. This huge expansion in size, geography and technology led to a strategic re-thinking of what NACE International is.
Education has expanded from less than a half-dozen courses delivered just a few times per year to 33 education programs in almost 750 courses presented to nearly 15,000 students last year alone. Certification has expanded from one certification to 28. From one headquarters office [the central office in Houston, TX], we now have six offices, three section offices, two career development centers and 23 training partners. This difference in size is staggering.
P&GJ: At the end of your term, how will you determine whether you were successful?
Hack: The top officers of any organization must look far beyond one year when steering an organization, so I won’t know at the end of my term if I’ve been successful. I will know if I’m successful when some initiatives I’m pushing within the strategic plan result in NACE International more effectively delivering corrosion knowledge to people worldwide several years from now and into the future.