Meet the Corrosion Specialist: Ben Lee

Meet the Corrosion Specialist: Ben Lee

11 Questions in 11 Minutes

We’ve introduced a few corrosion specialists via our blog in recent months. In this article, we’re talking to one of the leading lights in Young ICorr – Ben Lee.

Here are the 11 questions we posed in the 11 minutes we took of Ben’s valuable time.

1.     Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background, and what made you enter the corrosion industry?

In the years after leaving school, I worked several jobs in banking and retail. In my late 20s, I decided that I needed to build a career in an industry that I might actually enjoy. So, I started to apply for apprenticeships. I was 29 years old (a late developer!).

I was successful in getting into SGN (previously Southern Gas Networks) as a Pipelines Apprentice, helping to look after and maintain the High-Pressure Transmission Network.

2.     What are some of the most significant challenges you’ve faced in your career to date, and how have you overcome them?

My three-year apprenticeship included a Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) in Mechanical Engineering, which meant a lot of theoretical learning.

I was 31 at this stage, and so had been out of education for 15 years. That’s a long time to be out of the classroom – and while at school, no one would have considered me as being particularly academic.

The answer to this was to work hard, put in a lot of effort, and find ways to get my head around the things I was required to learn.

3.     What skills or traits do you believe are most crucial for someone to thrive in the corrosion industry?

I think you need to be willing to learn from your peers, regardless of their age or time in the job. You need to be able to think outside the box and have a good ability to problem solve, sometimes under tough conditions.

4.     How would you describe your role within the Institute of Corrosion to someone unfamiliar with it?

I’m on the Committee of Young ICorr (YICorr), attending events and being involved with this dynamic section. My favourite part of the role is helping others. It’s satisfying to be able to give back to an organisation that has given me so much, and I’m hopeful that my role will expand further in the near future.


5.     What inspired you to become involved in Young ICorr?

Since attending the ICORR Young Engineer Programme (YEP) in 2020, I have tried to be an advocate for people without a college or university education.

You see, I left school with four GCSEs and no idea what I wanted to do. I have found a job I really enjoy and believe in now. I want to share my experiences with others, to help them understand that you don’t have to have a higher education to be able to do well in this industry.

As long as you have the belief in yourself and are willing to learn, it’s an industry in which you can enjoy a great career, and in which you get to meet loads of great people along the way.

6.     Young ICorr has a tremendous focus on continuing education. In your opinion, why is continuing education crucial for corrosion scientists and engineers, especially those in the first few years of their career?

There is a huge amount to learn, and with an ever-growing understanding of the corrosion industry, alongside new technologies being developed and a world moving more towards sustainable energy, there will inevitably be a need to learn new things.

If you continually learn and develop, then you can progress in your career and take advantage of your growing knowledge and capability as the industry evolves.

7.     Looking ahead, what are your main goals and aspirations for your career over the next few years?

I want to continue to develop my understanding of the industry, and would like to start moving towards the design and development area. I want to keep building my network of corrosion professionals and keep learning as much as I can.

8.     And for Young ICorr – what are your aspirations for this part of the Institute of Corrosion?

I want to see ICorr grow and help Young ICorr to bring new people into the industry, including by letting people at school and college levels learn about the corrosion industry and the career opportunities it can provide.

9.     What has been your most significant learning or personal growth experience since joining the Institute of Corrosion and Young ICorr?

I have learned to have more self-belief.

I had a lot of ‘imposter syndrome’ when I started the YICorr programme – I was acutely aware of my lack of higher education compared to my peers. But I was able to bring other skills and experience to the table that made me an asset. I now have the belief that I can learn and achieve anything, as long as I’m willing to work for it.

10. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their scientific or engineering career, especially in terms of professional development?

I think there are four things that I would suggest:

  1. Work hard.
  2. Don’t be nervous about asking questions.
  3. Believe in yourself.
  4. Put in the effort to gain industry-recognised qualifications – they will be an immense benefit and help you to achieve more in your career.

11. Tell us something about yourself, something that might surprise fellow members?

I have a keen interest in astronomy and astro photography. I find the scale of space and the engineering involved in its exploration fascinating, and really enjoy being able to see or photograph things that are so far away. I also like being able to tell people a bit about what they are seeing if they ask. I also snuck in a trip to the Houston Space Center after the AMPP 2022 Conference, to see the Saturn V rocket which had been a long-held dream!

What do you want to ask a corrosion specialist?

Ben’s career is an inspiration, and demonstrates just how well school/college leavers and career transitioners can do in our industry.

Now it’s over to you. Let us know what you’d like us to ask the next ICorr member we put in the hotseat for 11 questions in 11 minutes. Send us an email, and we’ll try to include your question.

The Young Engineer Programme 2024

The Young Engineer Programme 2024

The Institute of Corrosion will be running the Young Engineer Programme (YEP) from January to November 2024, in London, UK.

The 2024 programme will be open for a limited number of participants who are in the first 7 years of their career and are interested in broadening their experience to assist them in their future careers. The programme will be split between in-person and online sessions, with the in-person sessions hosted in central London.

The programme will deliver key subjects related to the corrosion industry. This programme is open to all – you do not need to be a member of the Institute of Corrosion to apply![1]

The topic will cover:

  • Fundamentals of Corrosion
  • Materials Selection & Integrity Management
  • Plant Chemistry
  • Welding
  • Coatings & Linings
  • Corrosion Under Insulation
  • Cathodic Protection
  • Presenting Case Studies

In May the group will be split up into teams and tasked with finding a solution to them through a real-world case study. Each team will be assigned one of the UK’s foremost corrosion experts as a mentor who will guide them in solving the problem! Each team will have an opportunity to present their case study.

Generously sponsored by BP, the participants of this programme can win an all-expenses paid trip to AMPP Annual Conference + Expo 2025 in Nashville, USA, based on your solution to the YEP24 case study. In addition, one delegate chosen by the Institute who demonstrates remarkable commitment will be awarded the all-expenses-paid trip to Nashville as well as a place in the AMPP year-long leadership course.

After the opening and closing ceremonies, there will be a dinner where the participants can meet their lectures, mentors, and UK’s most senior corrosion experts.

“Due to an increase in demand of enquiries we have had close to the initial deadline, we have decided to extend the application deadline to 1 December 2023 to give people the opportunity to apply”.

 Please return applications to:

[1] Selected participants will receive a year’s free membership of both the Institute of Corrosion and AMPP.

Download Application Form

Meet the Corrosion Specialist: Brian Wyatt

Meet the Corrosion Specialist: Brian Wyatt

11 Questions in 11 Minutes

In this article, we’re showcasing Brian Wyatt, Director at Corrosion Control Limited.

We asked him about his professional life, career advice he would give to a younger corrosion specialist, and took a peep into his private life.

Here are the 11 questions we posed in the 11 minutes we took of Brian’s valuable time.

1.     What did you aspire to be when you were younger?

I had a keen interest in aeroplanes, inspired by books I read from an early age; and chemistry, prompted by the gift of a chemistry set that led to ‘experiments’ in a private space in a corner behind a wardrobe. Later, I wanted to study metallurgy.

2.     So, how did you end up as a corrosion specialist?

I was lucky to be sponsored through university by CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board) who planned and ran all the UK’s electrical power generating stations. I was even luckier to be allocated as a Technical Staff Trainee to the SW Labs at Portsmouth under Doug Peplow (one of three specialists in corrosion and cathodic protection at CEGB). This was at a time when most UK electricity was generated from coal or oil, and many stations were coastal and sea water cooled. Consequently, there were lots of seawater corrosion problems.

Under the CEGB system and the University of Surrey undergraduate programme, I had 14 months in industry and ‘vacations’ based at CEGB Portsmouth. One of these I spent with Doug, John Morgan (who wrote the premier British book on CP and is a Past President of ICorr), Tony Warne and Peter Hayfield (luminaries of Pt/Ti, Pt/Nb and MMO/Ti anodes) crawling inside Marchwood Power Station condenser water boxes which had been suffering from failed CP anodes.

Being with these undoubted experts in CP fired my enthusiasm for this field, and prompted me to select Impressed Current Anode materials as the topic for my final year dissertation.

As well as the power station work, which I loved, I had planned placements with British Aluminium (both at Warrington and their labs at Gerrards Cross), and BISRA (British Iron and Steel Research Association) in both London and Sheffield.

They were great times, during which I met, worked, and became friends with some wonderful people.

I guess my experience is why I am a great believer that time spent in diverse industries is fantastic for young students, particularly those in science and engineering. Both my son and granddaughter benefitted from similar experiences.

3.     What was that first job like?

By the time I graduated, CEGB had restructured its Technical Services, Portsmouth had closed, and Doug’s team dispersed. I had also realised that research was not for me.

Replying to a newspaper advert, I was interviewed for a role as a Junior Cathodic Protection Engineer at Spencer & Partners in London. First by David Lewis (later President of the Institute of Corrosion) and briefly by Ken Spencer, Founder and Senior Partner at Spencer & Partners, previously of Anglo Persian Oil Company (which became BP). They were the leading consultants in CP in the UK at a time when other expert companies were primarily contactors.

With the job secured, I worked in a cramped office with a small window overlooking Buckingham Palace Gardens. My desk had been used by John Thirkettle, who later became a close friend and colleague – he had left to join CWE, one of the competent CP contractors.

For a while Brian Martin, another close friend and very respected colleague from Australia, had a desk while he worked part-time alongside his MSc studies under Lionel Shrier. David Harvey, also a good colleague over the years, who has done much for ICorr, was also a junior CP engineer at that time.

Spencers ran what very few companies can do in present times – a closely monitored, albeit apparently informal, training scheme. I had 12 months of onsite mentoring by one of the best practical CP engineers I have ever known, Norman Sennington, and in the office with Dennis Ames and David Lewis.

As my experience grew, I undertook supervised designs and performance assessments. I can recall sitting alongside David Lewis as he critically assessed many reports that I had slaved over; they were improved afterwards.

I was then ‘let out alone’ first to a planned Bristol Waterworks Purton to Pucklechurch trunk main, were I walked every (muddy) mile, surveyed, designed, specified and inspected all the CP kit (plus, briefly, the pipe coating), supervising its installation and commissioning. The great RE later became general manager of BWW.

Gradually, I took on established inspection and remedial works at multiple ‘Government Controlled Reserve’ sites and multi-product pipelines, from my senior colleagues. I was sent to Pakistan for months to survey and then commission a large gas transmission pipeline system – which meant months living in tents on the construction site and travelling all over Northern Pakistan.

Regular visits to Abu Dhabi (I loved the desert), other Gulf States, Iran and occasionally Africa followed.

Pipelines, tanks, jetties, mainly impressed current CP, were my ‘bread and butter’.

I was encouraged to apply for Professional Membership of ICorr and what was then the Institute of Metals.

I was promoted to Associate Partner alongside Dennis Ames; Mike Allen and others joined the team.

One of my projects was to design galvanic anode CP systems for planned Trinity House monopile (MP) replacements for light ships; sadly this was not implemented (but formed an interesting link to my work now on MPs in offshore wind).

In considering the design of galvanic anodes more closely than was then documented in standards and what were then novel shapes, I had some interesting meetings with BKL Alloys Ltd, then the largest producer of galvanic anodes in Europe. They served the shipping industry and the growing offshore oil/gas sector. We got on well and they proposed that Spencer & Partners and BKL should combine design skills and products to present to North Sea platform developers.

Spencers were not happy, at that time, to work beyond their established consultancy role. BKL offered me a job as Development Manager, to bring them into impressed current and to strengthen their established galvanic anode design team. I accepted.

4.     How did your career progress?

During my time at BKL, I progressed from Development Manager to Engineering Manager.

The company moved from Birmingham to a new build factory and office complex in Telford. Again, great times.

The MD was Bill Mackay. He encouraged me to become a NACE Member, and I started to attend NACE meetings in the US and Canada. With relationships in the US with specialist companies in our field, I was involved in some challenging projects, perhaps the best of which was the Murchison project for which I led the team to design, produce, and supervise the installation of a complex, and what proved to be reliable, North Sea impressed current CP system. This used galvanic anodes and a full impressed current system, forming a hybrid system, with the galvanic anodes providing protection of critical nodes before electrical power was established.

By this time, my friends Tony Warne and Peter Hayfield were heavily involved in the novel ICCP anode design.

Soon after, RTZ purchased BKL from GKN, forming IMPALLOY (I claim credit for the name, Imperial Alloys and BKL Alloys… an idea that came to me in a pub in Shifnal with colleagues from both companies).

A team of us decided that we might do better on our own, and Bill Mackay, Bob Brittain, and I, along with a small group of engineers and admin staff, formed Global Cathodic Protection. My replacement at IMPALLOY was Bob Crundwell, another past President of ICorr.

Some interesting and challenging times followed, both technically and commercially:

  • I formed a joint venture in CP of steel in concrete, Tarmac Global, with the then successful civil construction firm Tarmac.
  • I led the development of the ‘Global Surveyor’ an early close interval potential and combined DC voltage gradient survey system, and we supplied some large and complex fixed offshore CP monitoring systems.
  • During this time I was President of ICorr; also challenging as, when I took over the role, we had very little money in the bank.

Eventually, I and our majority shareholder disagreed on the direction of the company. So I left. Since then, I have worked as an independent consultant in corrosion and, primarily, cathodic protection.

In my consulting life, I’ve had the good fortune to have lots of work in steel in concrete (I was involved in the first Midlands Links CP trial and secured the first commercial Midland Links CP contract… and made a profit!). I have continued to work in the pipelines field and was honoured to be President of CEOCOR, the European technical body in this field.

I have also worked for various MOD coastal sites and other coastal and estuarine ALWC/MIC affected assets. I’ve worked on pipeline projects around the world – some great fun, some not so much. I’ve also worked on lots of offshore CP, first in oil and gas and now in renewables.

Along with many others, I have put a lot of time into the ICorr CP Training and Certification Scheme.

5.     What have you enjoyed most about your career in corrosion?

The competent and wonderful people that I have worked with, or met in conferences and professional bodies, all over the world. Many are now friends. I have learned, and continue to learn, from them.

I have worked for years in Standards Development; again, making lots of friends, sometimes having ‘strong’ discussions, and always learning.

I have enjoyed my ‘expert witness work’, with the intellectual challenge of attempting to ensure every word on the page is accurate, can be defended, and is resilient to what may be a very unfriendly, but extremely bright, barrister.

I have worked for years with decent and supremely competent folk such as John Thirkettle, Chris Lynch, Robin Jacob, and Martin Mowlem. All with their different strengths. All ICorr Members. I have enjoyed the same with overseas members of CEOCOR and, historically, NACE.

6.     What career advice would you give to a young corrosion specialist?

  • Get out of the office, get dirty, collect your own data, record but challenge data that ‘looks wrong’. Seek advice and learn every day.
  • Somehow, and I know it is harder now, spend time in good-quality conferences (EFC, CEOCOR, AMPP, MCF seminars).
  • If challenging, do it with circumspection. Standards can be wrong, or not ideal for the project that you are working on. Do not design by rote but remember, the standards have been developed by experts and so only divert when you have a secure and documented basis for doing – best discussed with and reviewed by a peer.
  • Say no when it is not safe for you, or if your employer or client wants you to leave something that is a risk to others.
  • If necessary, present a coherent case more than once; if you fail to persuade, consider if you wish to work with them.
  • Continue to train.
  • Participate, and share expertise – you will gain by it.
  • If you do not know, there is no shame in saying so. It’s best if you can direct enquiries to someone who does.
  • Finally, enjoy your work. If you are not enjoying what you do, change.

7.     What is in store for corrosion professionals?

There will be a shortage of personnel to work alongside you; we are not training or retaining sufficient graduates or engineers (by whatever route) and you may not have the strong support that I enjoyed.

The converse is that there is more work to do and more scope to divert your career to areas where you can achieve what you want and do what you enjoy most.

8.     What have you gained from your membership of ICorr?

Friends, contacts with other competent professionals. People who I might wish to work with or consult on issues outside my expertise. Many of the key influencers in my professional life are ICorr members; a significant proportion are past Presidents.

Let’s get personal with the corrosion professional!

We know that corrosion professionals aren’t all work and no play, so we asked Brian three final questions to learn a little more about him personally.

9.     What’s your favourite food?

I confess to being a ‘foodie’. There is little that I dislike, and I enjoy anything that is well prepared, from simple to complex – though it should be fresh and as high-quality sourcing as possible. However, I particularly love French and Italian food and products.

10. What do you like doing most outside of your professional life?

Apart from food, I guess my greatest weakness is cars. I am not alone – there are others senior in ICorr with this ‘addiction’!

I have loved driving across Europe and the quieter parts of the UK. Sadly, I find the latter to be seldomly pleasurable now.

I also enjoy sitting quietly with my wife, with a decent glass of wine, and looking across a good view. This might be at home, elsewhere in the UK, or overseas. It’s even better after a nice drive, with the rest of the family present, while we are enjoying good food.

11. Tell us a secret about yourself, something that might surprise fellow members (and something we can print!)

I am an ‘Essex lad’, born within a mile of the main gate of Ford’s Dagenham factory. We escaped when I was 10 and my father’s electrical engineering business became profitable. I never owned a Ford! Even though their products benefitted from the oversight of that great engineer and manager Richard Parry-Jones FREng.

What do you want to ask a corrosion specialist?

The ‘Essex Lad’ has spoken!

Now, over to you. Let us know what you’d like us to ask the next ICorr member we put in the hotseat for 11 questions in 11 minutes. Send us an email, and we’ll try to include your question.