Fellow’s Corner – A Career as a Cathodic Protection Engineer

This series of articles is intended to highlight industry wide engineering experiences, practical opinions, guidance, and focused advice to practising technologists. The series is written by ICorr Fellows who have made significant contributions to the field of corrosion management. The articles in this issue feature contributions from David Harvey, who gives a personal view of his career as a senior CP Engineer, and Douglas Mills, who discusses the use of Electrochemical Noise Measurement in determining corrosion.

A Career as a Cathodic Protection Engineer

This article highlights some aspects of an interesting and rewarding career in the cathodic protection industry and with the Institute of Corrosion. It aims to show what can be experienced within the workplace and outside of it, in a varied, fascinating and satisfying career over 50 years gained with consultants, oil and gas operators, cathodic protection companies and engineering design houses. Hopefully this will encourage newcomers to the industry that there is great career to be had in cathodic protection.

I, like many others, came into cathodic protection by accident. I joined a CP Specialist Consulting Engineering Company as a draughtsman while still completing my day-release HNC in Electrical Engineering. I was fortunate to have an excellent mentor in David Lewis, former ICorr President, who gave me John Morgan’s “Cathodic Protection” textbook to study. I progressed on to become a CP design engineer. As I did not drive at that time and site visits were limited, I benefitted from picking the brains of my colleagues’ knowledge and site experience, as back then, junior engineers were teamed up with a senior engineer to learn their trade, which regrettably does not happen today. However, one of the enlightening aspects about the CP Industry is that senior engineers are generally very open in sharing their knowledge and experiences – both good and bad – to enable us to continually improve the way we approach projects and produce more cost effective, efficient designs.

CP Engineers come from many different disciplines (e.g. mechanical, electrical, chemical, civil etc) some from grass roots and others from universities. The application of CP to structures requires detailed interaction with all disciplines so one ends up knowing a little about a lot, rather than a lot about a little, unless specialising in one particular area. Rarely are two projects identical as there are so many different parameters to be considered. Today, there are training courses, exams and certification offered by ICorr at all levels from Tester to Senior Design Engineer (Levels 1- 4 of ISO 15257). However, CP is something you also need to learn from field experience – often by trial and error. It is not something you can just study and apply effectively from a desk alone. Design spreadsheets can often contain errors or have bad data inputted so the output needs strong experience to know if it is sound or “rubbish”.

My practical experience was initially gained by secondment to Middle Eastern oil companies. It covered applying cathodic protection to oil and gas fields, pipelines, associated tankage, and marine facilities. This was a very exciting time for a young man who had not previously been out of the UK. Working in the desert oil fields was almost like being on Safari. On return to UK, I was appointed a CP project engineer. Over time, I moved up to Engineering Manager and Consultant in a number of cathodic protection companies, design houses and as an independent consultant.

I was responsible for all aspects of sacrificial anode and major ICCP systems for pipelines, refineries/petrochemical facilities, and inshore/offshore marine structure projects.

My career as a cathodic protection engineer has given me the opportunity to visit and work in more than 25 different countries and meet many exceptional people at all levels. Occasionally, one could find sufficient spare time to visit some of the local tourist attractions, e.g. various roman ruins, Great Wall of China, Great Pyramids, Panama Canal etc. which were very enjoyable benefits I would not have otherwise gained.

ICorr Activities
As the industry expanded in the 1980’s, I became involved in ICorr activities when they had the Joint Venture with NACE (CCEJV), which became the Corrosion Engineering Association (CEA).

Initially, I joined a CCEJV cathodic protection work group to assist with the preparation of a State-of-the-Art Report to be published by ICorr and NACE. This enabled me to learn from my peers and, at the same time, put some of my experience back into the industry for the younger engineers to benefit from. Later, I became Work-Group Chair, then Task-Group Chair. I was then appointed Technical Activities Coordinating Committee (TACC) Chair. This role also included being the Conference Programme Manager for “UK Corrosion” which was a major three-day event in the corrosion world 1987-1991. As TACC Chair, I also attended NACE Committee Weeks and Corrosion Conferences in USA as the UK ICorr/CCEJV representative. This was a tremendous opportunity for interaction with cathodic protection engineers and manufacturers from around the world. Regrettably, after much good work, NACE and ICorr parted company in 1988 and the CEA became the Corrosion Engineering Division of ICorr.

I also became the representative for Pipeline Industries Guild and the Institute of Petroleum on the BSI CP GEL 603 committee in 1985 which was revising the UK CP bible, BS CP1021. This was eventually published as BS7361 in 1991. In 1993 I was elected to chair this committee, a post I held for the next 19 years, coordinating the UK input into numerous BS/CEN CP standards prepared and published during this time.

Apart from the BSI committee, I also became involved in various ICorr committees and Council:
• Member of Council 1998-Present.
• Chair of Professional Assessment Committee 1998 – 2012.
• Chair of CP Certification Sub-Committee 2006-2019.
• Chair of Course Approvals Board 2013-2019.
• Member of CP Governing Board (2002- 2020).
• Member PDTC Committee (1998-2020).
• QA Advisor attaining ISO 9001 Certification.
• ICorr Representative for UK to CEOCOR (2008 – 2012).
• Professional Affiliate Engineering Council Coordinator with Society of Operations Engineers – current role.
• Primary author/updater of 5 ICorr CP training Courses to ISO 15257 for On-land and Marine Structures.

As a result of these activities, I was awarded Honorary Fellow Member of ICorr in 2018.

One of the other milestones in my career was attaining Professional Affiliate Status for ICorr with the Engineering Council. This was followed by the setting up a Registration Agreement with the Society of Environment Engineers enabling suitably qualified and experienced members to apply for registration with the Engineering Council as a CEng, IEng or EngTech. Having set the system up, I thought I should be the guinea pig to try it out. My application was successful and I was awarded CEng. With the demise of SEE, I set up a new Registration Agreement with the Society of Operations Engineers.

As a result, more than 50 of our members have become registered as Chartered Engineers – a tremendous benefit available for our professional members.

In Conclusion
As I look back over the last 50+ years, I can reflect on the many good memories of a varied career, the many friends and colleagues I have worked with and the opportunities I was given to expand my knowledge. I have tried to put back some of this for young engineers to consider that a career in CP can be very interesting and rewarding. To be honest, I still get satisfaction from it and in retirement, I am still dabbling, doing some CP design appraisals/approvals. A long and interesting, satisfying career in CP is very achievable albeit with a lot of hard work.
David Harvey CEng, FICorr(Hon)

A Cathodic Protection Engineer at work.

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