August 2018, Vol. 245, No. 8


NACE President Looks to Bolster Corrosion Education

By Michael Reed, Managing Editor


Jeffrey Didas, NACE International’s president for 2018, has the good fortune to take office as the organization marks its 75th anniversary, a milestone prompting several special activities throughout the year. 

Amid the all planned events, however, one that fell outside the realm of celebratory was foremost in Didas’ mind as he took off: NACE Legislative Day, which took place May 23-24 in Washington, D.C., and involved meeting with members of Congress.

“Members visit the offices of their congressmen and senators and talk about corrosion issues and solutions,” the Matcor senior engineer told P&GJ during a break at the annual NACE Corrosion 2018 in Phoenix. “It’s our way of getting involved with legislation to upgrade and add years to the life of the infrastructure through everyday common-sense corrosion control practices.”

Didas, who has been an active NACE member since 1975, has over 40 years of diverse corrosion experience to draw from in contributing to this annual endeavor. Additionally, he serves NACE as technology coordinator for TMG C1, vice chair of the NACE Institute Policy & Practices Committee and director of the Member Activities Committee (MAC).

Didas received a bachelor’s degree in electrical technology (BSET) from Thomas A. Edison State College in Trenton, N.J.,  and American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) certification from Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts.

In this interview, the 2014 NACE Brannon Award-winner discusses how he got his start in the industry, the Trump-effect on inspection-based regulations, and training and recruiting the next generation of technical professionals, among other topics.

P&GJ: How did you get into the industry, and what was the career path that led to your current position?

Didas: When I graduated from community college in May 1974, I was hired by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company into the operations group, in the Agawam, Mass. office. After six months, I transferred into the Corrosion Department and started as an assistant corrosion technician. Four months later, I was transferred down south to New Jersey as a corrosion technician, and I began my career.

I worked for three pipeline companies, one oil company and two consulting engineering companies in various positions and have been moved around the world and the U.S. way too many times. Now, I’m settled in Arizona. Hopefully, I will finish out my career here and eventually retire.

For NACE, I got involved in TPC – now TCC [Technical Coordination] – in 1978 and after that I became involved in various leadership positions on committees, and section/area activities and in officer positions – vice-chair, chair, director, treasurer, vice president and now president.

P&GJ: What are your top priorities as president for the coming year?

Didas: I want to continue to help drive the implementation of Impact Plus throughout the corrosion industry, and assuring NACE is serving its members well through the implementation of the strategic plan.

NACE is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and I’m doing work in promoting that. NACE began in 1943 with 11 pipeline engineers who needed a forum on cathodic protection. The organization grew to provide members and industries with improving education in the form of publications, events, training, certification and more.

NACE, and now the NACE Institute and the NACE Foundation, continue to focus on education and networking opportunities for individuals and businesses. We are also shifting to provide a management focus. We have a workforce program in which we bring in veterans and put them through the basic course and a specialty course. Fairly often we get them jobs, either as inspectors or technicians.

The Impact Study [See Nace's Impact Study] and Impact Plus have driven home the point that our corrosion managers need to talk the language of their executive management in order to ensure executive managers understand that corrosion prevention and control comes with a positive return on investment.

In addition, it’s a priority to continue building relationships with other societies, continue membership engagement, diversity and retain members and increase the focus on public policy.

P&GJ: Is NACE expecting to implement any new services in the near future?

Didas: NACE is always looking to add value for its members and customers through innovative programs and services. We just launched two new services that I am excited about. As I mentioned previously, Impact Plus, which is a comprehensive corrosion management system for asset owners, is a multi-faceted program that will help NACE members speak the language of their management – specifically, the business language.

The other new service is NIICAP [NACE International Institute Contractor Accreditation Program], which is an accreditation program for coatings contractors. We are also focused on expanding our education, certification and conferences to cover more topics that are relevant to our members.

We just launched a coatings applicator course, with a certification process on the way. We also launched a refinery course and are working on several exciting conferences. Another initiative is to deliver more of our courses through distance-learning and online technology. We recognize that in today’s world, our members want the convenience of education at their location, on their time.

P&GJ: How is NACE progressing in terms of training and recruiting the next generation of technical professionals?

Didas: We are focused on two platforms in this area: one is for our traditional members, and one is for our veterans and younger or future professionals.

Regarding our traditional members, the NACE Institute recently rolled out new processes for development and delivery of examinations. With the growth in corrosion-related professional development programs, thousands of people have joined the corrosion control workforce in the last decade.

Unfortunately, many of them are using qualifications earned in what we would call shallow training and testing to qualify for working on pipelines. The NACE Institute has strengthened its examination development and delivery approach to meet best practices associated with ISO 17024, which almost no other organization does.

A manager at one company said, “I want a corrosion worker who can empty the trash in the morning and take (pipeline readings) in the afternoon.” NACE does not provide programs for those workers, and in our view, that represents a workforce that is not concerned with safety.

Additionally, through the NACE Foundation we have a workforce development program that trains veterans and certifies them as Level 1, in either cathodic protection or coatings inspection. Through the Foundation we have pre-professional programs, a scholarship program that offers many scholarships for students in a corrosion or related program. The Foundation also has the C-Kit program, which brings corrosion science into the middle and high school classroom though training teachers on basic corrosion protection; they bring what they’ve learned back to the classroom, and this often gets their students interested in corrosion.

NACE also works to partner with young professional pipeline groups toward building the future workforce. We are going to the European young pipeline professionals conference. We need to get the knowledge found in the industry down to the younger people before everyone retires. Technology transfer has been a problem.

We are continuously working to get new members from all generations into the corrosion control industry – not only focusing on the Generation Z and Millennials, but trying to train/educate/qualify/certify other individuals in this field.

P&GJ: What do members view as their biggest challenges over the next couple of years?

Didas: Getting new technicians, technologists, engineers, researchers and educators into the corrosion control industry. The graying workforce is departing and as in most industries there is not a consistent replacement program or technology/knowledge transfer program, so we are losing a lot of experience and knowledge.

P&GJ: Do you feel operating companies have stepped up their own efforts to protect their facilities from corrosion in recent years?

Didas: Yes. On the pipeline side of oil and gas they have been doing a good job. Facilities have been on the radar of most regulated companies for quite a while, and they are doing a respectable job of preserving these assets and implementing a corrosion control program. It’s difficult to do the work in those environments because the piping is hard to inspect; the newer more modular facilities are easier to inspect. Those in the non-regulated parts of the industry are slowly catching up as they are realizing the cost-effective benefits of corrosion control.

P&GJ: There seems to have been, at least prior to the steel policy announcement, a little more optimism in the industry over the last year or so. Is that optimism reflected in NACE’s recent efforts to recruit new members?

Didas: The corrosion control industry does very well in surviving during upturns and downturns. What we do is required by the industry and most owner companies realize the benefits of corrosion control and the return on their investment.

Our challenge isn’t so much to recruit new NACE members, but to increase the communication between NACE members and their management, where support for good corrosion management systems is needed.

P&GJ: Has the Trump administration removed any inspection-based regulations that might reduce the amount of work among your members? Does that seem likely?

Didas: Not yet. PHMSA is going to put in place the new set of regulations sometime soon and per the Trump mandate for every new regulation, two need to be removed. This would be difficult for PHMSA to do as all the regulations are cumulative, and the 2:1 ratio may not be obtainable.

The new regulations will increase the work load for corrosion control and integrity folks, but they also will lead to improved pipeline safety. The new regulations are being negotiated with PHMSA by the advisory committees GPAC [Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee] and  LPAC [Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committee]. We expect to have the final rule published later this year and effective in mid-2019. The new rules that are coming will help the industry and improve safety. PHMSA has been a very industry-friendly regulator for a while now. The people coming out [to facilities] know your system and know your concerns.

P&GJ: How do the primary concerns of members differ in North America vs. Europe and other regions?

Didas: The U.S. and Canada are fairly close on concerns and issues, and we both have similar goals and objectives for corrosion control, integrity and sustainability. Europe is also close to the U.S. and Canada on rules and regulations, however, the region has newer infrastructure so it does not face the older systems and infrastructure issues that exist in North America. After the war, Europe had to rebuild its industries and with that its infrastructure, so they have mature infrastructure just not as mature as in North America.

The developing world has different issues as some of those nations are developing rapidly and have a shortage of corrosion and integrity personnel. This is an education and training challenge. NACE has been working to get more education courses out to the developing world.

P&GJ: What would you say to someone considering delaying or scrimping on corrosion-fighting efforts as a means to tighten their budget?

Didas: Don’t do it! The cost-savings from a delayed corrosion control program are dwarfed by the higher costs that happen when the project is put into place. Corrosion of the infrastructure is ongoing and delaying any remediation or even putting off applying corrosion control to a new system can double or triple the cost. P&GJ

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