In a new occasional series about our industry leaders, Corrosion Management (CM) interviewed Bill Hedges, who has worked in corrosion and integrity management for over 30 years, and was recently promoted into the role of Chief Engineer for the Materials Group at BP. We asked him to describe his career path, and to reflect on the future of the corrosion industry.
CM: Bill, can you tell us about how you came to be a corrosion professional?
Bill: I don’t think anyone grows up wanting to be a corrosion engineer! I was born in the early 1960’s and grew up with the exploration of space and always wanted to be an astronaut. This led to an interest in science at an early age and in particular chemistry which I still love. So, while I could only pretend to be an astronaut I was able to do early experiments with the chemistry sets of the day – which I don’t think could be sold anymore for safety reasons. I had several near misses and my mother could never part with the coffee table covered in scorch marks from an early magnesium burning adventure.
My love of chemistry was encouraged by my school teachers to whom I am very grateful as well as my friends who stuck with me despite being a chemistry nerd. I went on to study Chemistry at Southampton University and in my 3rd year I discovered Electrochemistry which I really enjoyed, and chose to do my final year project in this area. This introduced me to Prof. Derek Pletcher who I admire greatly, and he remains a good friend. He was very supportive in my early career and encouraged me to do a Ph.D. project with him studying rechargeable lithium batteries, which was great fun. So far, no mention of the “corrosion” word and although I never thought of it at the time, I came to realise that a battery is simply a controlled corrosion reaction (apologies battery chemists). I went on to Oxford University as a post-doctoral student for a year to work on a transcutaneous sensor to measure dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) in human blood using a conductivity approach – more on CO2 later!
CM: When did you transition from University to Industry?
Bill: My first industry job was with a packaging company, Metal Box, as a Corrosion Scientist studying the corrosion effects of a range of substances on tin and aluminium cans. It was lots of fun, doing experiments in food products, beers, wine, household cleaners etc. which gave me a good understanding of corrosion testing methods and introduced me to my lifelong interest in corrosion.
I then joined Exxon Chemical (later known as Nalco Exxon and now Nalco) in Abingdon and then Fawley, UK, in their oil field chemistry group also as a corrosion scientist – although this is where the blurring between scientist and engineer began. The focus was on understanding internal corrosion in oil and gas (O&G) systems and developing corrosion inhibitors to control corrosion. This is where my earlier work on CO2 became very useful as CO2 is the primary cause of internal corrosion in the O&G upstream industry. It was also where I first became a Team Leader which relates to another key passion of mine – working with, and developing people. It was a fantastic role which allowed me to travel to many interesting parts of the world and gave me my first overseas assignment for 2 years in Houston, Texas, USA, as the worldwide group leader for corrosion technology.
CM: Ultimately you stuck with O&G, can you tell us about your career with BP?
Bill: In 1997, I joined BP as a corrosion engineer and found myself in a team led by Don Harrop, a highly respected engineer, who has since become a good friend and mentor to me. My first role was to run the corrosion laboratory which is where we did our work on helping to understand the role of acetate ions on CO2 corrosion rates. We also developed a CO2 corrosion rate prediction model known as Cassandra which we provided to the industry.
After 3 years, I moved to their operation in Trinidad and Tobago, initially as a corrosion engineer. There I was promoted to the role of Integrity Manager which allowed me to expand my experience to include corrosion, inspection and production chemistry, disciplines.
After 5 years in the tropics, I was given the opportunity to move to Alaska also as the Integrity Manager for a much larger team and business. This gave me an experience I learnt greatly from, because shortly after I arrived we had a corrosion leak that resulted in an oil spill covering two acres on the Tundra. Living and working through this incident and its impact, whilst dealing with lawyers, consultants, politicians, regulators and the media was life changing and, in the end, very rewarding.
In 2012, I returned to the UK to become the Corrosion Authority for BP’s upstream business, and in 2018 I became the Chief Engineer for the Materials Group which is comprised of the Corrosion, Materials, Welding, Inspection, Production chemistry, Pipelines, Risers and Subsea teams. So, although I now work in the broader area of Integrity Management I still maintain a strong connection with corrosion.
CM: Do you have any specific career advice or learnings to share?
Bill: Yes. Career tip #1 – If anyone offers you a paid job as a corrosion engineer on a Caribbean island – take it!
Career tip #2: If all the above sounds like I’ve been very fortunate you would be right. However, it omits the numerous job applications I was rejected for and the frustrations that it brings. So, if you are passionate about what you do but cannot seem to find the right career path my advice is to keep working hard, persevere and look for alternative pathways. It is my experience that opportunities usually appear – although not always at the most convenient time!
I have continued to try and learn and broaden my experiences and have been privileged to be recognised for my work with several accreditations and honours, FRSC, C.Chem., C.Sci., FNACE, FICorr. and C.Eng. I love to work with, and encourage younger engineers, as well as the broader corrosion community, and I am a strong supporter of both the ICorr and NACE student / Young Engineer Programmes. I’m also a strong advocate for getting more women into our industry and have supported the NACE “Women in Corrosion” initiatives.
So, what have I learned? Firstly, corrosion is a brilliant, fun and rewarding role. We don’t often think about it, but it is also a very responsible role, keeping people and the environment safe. As a colleague and good friend once said to me “corrosion is not simple” – it’s a complicated, multi-disciplinary subject where it’s rare for one person to have all the answers, which means team work is essential. As Corrosion Engineers we have made many advances, and it’s my belief that we do a great service to the industry in general, and the communities we work in.
CM: What are your thoughts about the future as a corrosion professional?
Bill: I think the future is very exciting. I believe we will see more automation with sensors, robots, drones and crawlers collecting key data for us, which also reduces the risk to people. It will be impossible for a single engineer to analyse all the data, so the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence will become critical to convert it into useful information that can help us control corrosion more efficiently than today. Don’t be frightened by this – we will always need corrosion engineers – we’ll just be using new skills to complement what we already have. Finally, I believe materials are an important part of our future, non-corrosive (if there is such a thing!), light-weight materials that can be used where appropriate.
I’m looking forward to it.
CM: Thank you Bill, so are we!
November meeting was a joint meeting with the Institute AGM, and was held at the Council Chambers in Birmingham. As with previous joint Midland Branch / ICorr AGM meetings it was very well attended with approx. 50 attendees, although adverse weather affected rail travel and prevented a number of members attending. The theme of the meeting was pipeline integrity, with presentations from Malcolm Morris of Sherwin Williams, Leo Richards of Intertek, and Kristian Hampson of IMechE. Malcolm provided a detailed review of the coating systems commonly used on pipeline systems, typical application techniques together with examples of common rehabilitation methods, which for buried long pipelines can be very costly and challenging. Leo delivered a presentation on pipeline integrity and the importance of chemical treatment during pre-commissioning of a new pipeline system and its long term operation and provided case studies from each stage in the process, together with the simulation systems available and examples of typical problems when the process was not applied or applied incorrectly. Kristian gave a very thorough review of non-destructive-testing methods for corrosion under insulation on pipework, with many examples of what not to do, and photographs of some rather horrible corrosion examples. He also explained that CUI is a wide-spread problem accounting for over 50% of oil and gas pipeline leaks in the industry (see technical article on this topic later in this issue).
The chair thanked all the speakers for their very informative presentations, and following this there was the presentation of the U.R. Evans award, and the AGM, which are reported on page 5.
The January talk by Dr Patricia Conder, Sonomatic Ltd, was on “Pipework Corrosion: Prediction and Reality”, and how differences in the spatial pattern of internal pipework corrosion, be it patchy or more uniform, impacts on the effectiveness of inspection, and how this can be used to improve understanding of the underlying corrosion behaviour. Patricia discussed how extensive corrosion is easy to find and measure, but in instances where wall loss occurs more randomly, the challenges of matching inspection strategy to the corrosion coverage increase. She discussed how thinking of inspection of as a statistical sampling process helps both inspection strategy and analysis. The audience were challenged to spot the difference between a corroding and non-corroding circuit within a second. This was successfully achieved by means of a graphical overview of the whole circuit inspection history.
This overview presented a route to mine into the data, to examine “groupings” based on corrosion mechanisms, for example testing to see if the bends really are corroding faster than the straights. She also discussed the use of integrity driven corrosion rates, based on how the overall wall loss of the circuit is changing, rather than focussing on per inspection location corrosion rates, which can exaggerate measurement variability. Although historically inspection has been based on manual ultrasonic thickness measurements and radiography, these techniques have only covered relatively small areas overall. Developments for pipework inspection offer everything from screening to more detailed high accuracy mapping. The challenges being to incorporate all these results into a database in a meaningful way to get added value from a change in inspection approach. Patricia finished the talk by reminding us to think corrosion: think spatial.
Miller Fabrications of Wishaw, Scotland, a Gold Sustaining Member, design, fabricate and install structural steel, architectural metalwork and secondary steelwork to the UK construction and rail sectors. Their 12 acre production plant includes an in-house shot-blast and paint facility.
For more information, see www.millerfabrications.com
The branch was very pleased to welcome retiring ICorr President Sarah Vasey on her farewell tour, to the committee Christmas dinner, which was held at the beginning of December. Sarah has taken a great interest in the work of the branch, as with other UK Branches that she has helped to develop during her Presidency.
L to R: Dr. Muhammad Ejaz, Amir Attarchi, Hooman Takhtechian, Dr. Nigel Owen, Sarah Vasey, Dr. Yunnan Gao, Zahra Lotfi, Bryn Roberts and Stephen Tate of the Aberdeen Branch Committee.
At the November joint meeting with IOM3, Dr Ed Wade gave a presentation to an audience of over 50, on the subject of “Downhole Metallurgy and Corrosion – from the first pipe, to current challenges”, which proved a fascinating insight into the topic that had everyone glued to their seats.
Dr Wade originally trained as a metallurgist and his interest in downhole metallurgy developed during 13 years spent with Marathon Oil in Aberdeen and subsequently as an independent consultant. Since 2004, he has delivered more than 40 training courses focussed on the selection of corrosion resistant alloys for downhole applications, including ‘open’ courses promoted in Aberdeen by the Mining Institute of Scotland (a local affiliate society of IOM3).
Starting with the first use of downhole pipe, the talk progressed through subsequent developments that have remained central to current practice; recent novel HP/HT challenges were also outlined, before closing with an overview of future very challenging downhole requirements for Geothermal Energy and Carbon Storage, such as United Downs Deep Power Project in Cornwall, that will require many thousands of new deep / high performance wells to be drilled and operated under highly corrosive conditions.
It was a fascinating tour through 159 years of metallurgical advancement of tubular goods, commencing with the Drake Well in 1859, (that went on to operate for another 40 years), through to the development of modern API Specs and Coding Systems, trends and advances in North Sea CRA use for tubulars, together with an explanation of how corrosion mechanisms such as Ringworm have been eliminated through improved heat treatments.
The difficulties in adequately simulating and testing for all downhole situations was highlighted along with the sometimes intermittent, and sometimes unplanned operational practices of the Oil and Gas and other Industries, which place huge demands/expectations on material performance in sometimes rapidly changing conditions.
The need for materials to withstand highly corrosive sub-surface gases at very high partial pressures for extended periods, and the difficulties of successfully implementing preventative chemical treatments at immense depth were clearly explained.
It was also evident that composites have still yet to make huge in-roads into the market place f0r downhole use and to successfully compete with the available wide range of corrosion resistant metallics. The main problem here seems to be industry confidence in non-metallics, as being relatively new, difficult to manufacture, and not having well established test protocols for downhole scenarios.
The event generated many questions from the audience that were very well responded to by this distinguished speaker.
The branch 2018/19 session continues on 26 February, with a special coatings technical event. Ajith Varghese of International Paint will talk on ‘A Novel Approach to Combatting CUI’ and Michael Baraky (RMB Products) and Rob Mackie (United Pipeline Systems), will discuss ‘MIC-Resistant HDPE Linings for Seawater Applications’.
Branch Chair Dr. Yunnan Gao presents a Certificate of Appreciation to Presenter Dr Ed Wade of Metal Ecosse after the Event.
Dr Ed Wade’s paper can be found on: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1N2CqylMutsUOjAj5ixPsFeHoRsr1gL1p/view?usp=drive_web and all past Aberdeen ICorr Presentations can be found on: https://sites.google.com/site/icorrabz/resource-center
Full details of future events can be found on the diary page of the magazine and on the website, or contact: ICorrABZ@gmail.com