NACE International Jazzes Up Annual Corrosion Conference

By Michael Reed, Managing Editor

NACE kicked off its annual Corrosion Conference & Expo on March 26 with President Sandy Williamson wielding the larger-than-life scissors at the 2017 ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

Visitors on opening night were greeted by a New Orleans jazz band as they entered the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Organizers said more than 6,000 attendees registered for the event, which would represent an increase over last year.

With hundreds of exhibits showcasing products and services on display, the mood among visitors and exhibitors would best be described as ranging from cautiously optimistic to upbeat.

“This has been a good turnout. I think this, San Antonio and Houston are probably the best for us as far as this event goes,” said Jeff Baker, of Denso North America, which specializes in liquid coatings. “I think for a lot of companies sending 10 people to Vancouver last year didn’t make that much sense. It seems like a lot of people who skipped last year came back this year.”

He added business for his company had been good lately.

For participants interested in fighting corrosion as it specifically affects the oil and gas industry there was plenty to be seen, with at least 250 exhibitors in attendance who listed among their specializations: pipelines, tanks and underground systems, oil and gas exploration, and refining.

“It’s good timing,” said Jim Sapp, of MESA Products, a specialist in pipeline corrosion control. “All of a sudden there’s a lot of activity. It’s just exploded, really. There’s a lot of pipeline activity.” He said the event was going well, adding “There’s always a lot of activity on the first day or two.”

Expressing similar feelings about the event was Michael Henry, of Girard, a pipeline pig manufacturer, who said his company’s business had picked up lately after being “a little slow” earlier in the year.

“A lot of people are coming around, and they have had some inquiries, which is always good,” Henry said. “It’s the first day, so I’d say it’s pretty good.”

Even with the industry as a whole starting to bounce back from a downturn, one of the overriding themes expressed by those in attendance was that even in the face of budget cuts, company executives must fight the urge to scrimp when it comes to fighting corrosion and protecting assets and infrastructure.

John Pennington, vice president of Pigs Unlimited International, said his company has been “holding our own,” adding business “slowed a bit in the first quarter” before bouncing back with the sale of about 800 for use on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Mitch McLeod, of Aegion, commented that by the second day of the event, “it ebbs and flows as do all of these events.” He said the turnout from his perspective was better than the previous year’s conference in Vancouver.

“We were surprised by how well that was attended giving the location,” he said.

Added Sarah Olthof, a laboratory manager at GPI Laboratories, which specializes in corrosion control, “It’s been going well. I’ve maybe not had the volume of some shows, but the quality of the meetings I’ve had with people has been very rewarding.”

NACE, which has 36,000 members, has continued to grow throughout the downturn, with its ranks leveling off over the past couple of years.

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