November 22, 2010
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Home / Issue Archive / 2010 / October #10 / EFC President Philippe Marcus, “Corrosion Management Is Great Tool to Slash Facilities Downtime and Indirect Costs”

№ 10 (October 2010)

EFC President Philippe Marcus, “Corrosion Management Is Great Tool to Slash Facilities Downtime and Indirect Costs”

   The good, old “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” motto may appeal to many, but when it comes to skilled corrosion specialists, they will always prefer “Prevention is better than cure.” Corrosion management is picking up pace across a wide spectrum of industries as scientists tirelessly promote the benefits of early detection of potential failures and call upon corporations to invest more funds in smart technologies that help fight corrosion.

By Bojan Šoć

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   In mid-September OGE met with European Federation Corrosion (EFC) President Philippe Marcus on the sidelines of the EUROCORR congress in Moscow, and asked him to share his thoughts about the event and explain, among other things, why relatively cheap replacement of rusty pipes can ultimately put the performance of your facilities on the verge of financial ruin.      
OGE: This is the 30th EUROCORR and as a longtime corrosion expert who’s attended many of these in the past you can certainly offer us a glimpse of a EUROCORR regular throughout this 30-year journey.
MARCUS: I’ve certainly attended many, but I’m not sure I can recall the exact number. In the past this event had a different format – those were smaller meetings held once in two or three years. Over time we realized that the corrosion science and engineering were becoming more and more important and we decided to launch EUROCORR. I can’t remember which was the first, but I attended most of them and organized some myself.

OGE: This year, Russia is the first-time organizer. What can you say about the hosts’ effort?
MARCUS: Before answering that question, let me say a few words about the context of the host country election procedure. We collect bids and the best bid wins. In order to bid to host EUROCORR, a country must have the national corrosion society, which is a member of the European Federation of Corrosion. In the past, this was not the case with Russia, blocking the way for Moscow to bid. However, the creation of its own corrosion society, ANTIKOR, finally removed that hurdle.

OGE: What are the key elements in evaluating a bid?
MARCUS: When we receive bids, we look at many aspects. Naturally, the priority is given to the depth of the scientific program. Another aspect is the scale of the event – we want the congress to be as big as possible. And of course, following our scientific policy we don’t want to stage EUROCORR in a limited number of countries. Our selection of Russia for 2010 was backed up on all counts: science is very strong here and has always been; the emergence of the gas giant Gazprom as the event’s sponsor also played a role; and the determination of people at ANTIKOR to host the congress suggested it was the right time to award the event to Russia. We can see that our Russian colleagues share our commitment to cooperate more in different areas, including oil and gas and many other areas such as basic fundamental research, automotive, nuclear industry, etc.

OGE: If you were to pick the three most urgent issues the oil and gas industry needs to tackle, what would they be?
MARCUS: I think my colleague Thierry Chevrot who heads EFC’s Oil and Gas Chapter could speak about this in more detail, but obviously, based on what I know, I could say that all the questions related to transportation of gas are very important. Corrosion is an issue not only because of the direct cost associated with it, but even more so because of the indirect cost. Replacing a piece of steel isn’t very expensive, but if you can no longer transport oil or gas, the cost becomes enormous. If you manage it properly, you will reduce the downtime to the minimum and the costs will drop accordingly. Safety is another very important issue, as is the understanding of the processes and the ability to find ways to monitor corrosion.
We must not neglect a range of other issues, too: analysis of good practice, updates on regulations and standards compliance – all of these matter very much when handling corrosion. This week I had a discussion with a Gazprom representative and he assured me that these issues are of high interest to his company. It is encouraging for EFC to learn that companies and officials in Russia favor the development of a stronger relationship with the corrosion community, and particularly in the oil and gas sector. We are also pleased to see that skills and qualification of staff involved in preventing and fighting corrosion at all levels, be it engineers or technicians, is steadily improving.

OGE: Developed countries are paying more attention to corrosion management to stave off pipe replacement. Do you think this kind of awareness is taking root in Russia, too?
MARCUS: I’m afraid I don’t know the situation in this country well enough to answer your question. But worldwide we can clearly see the tendency to prevent halts in operation of pipelines and other installations, which are required when you need to replace a piece of steel. This is being done not just for technical, but economic reasons as well. Corrosion management is important and the awareness about its importance stems from a sound  understanding of processes. Meanwhile, scientists need to develop both fundamental and applied research, which is directly related to proper corrosion management. There are certain industry sectors where research has advanced farther than in the oil and gas sector and we can easily see why. Aeronautic and nuclear industries, for instance, can’t afford to wait until a component breaks down to replace it. These sectors require a different kind of management in order to reduce the likelihood of an accident to the minimum. In the oil and gas industry there is no such urgency, probably because of a different financial impact of operational failures. Yet I believe that in the future corrosion prevention will become the top priority issue.

OGE: Over many years you’ve headed the research at a leading educational institution in France. What can you say about the level of skills acquired by École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Paris graduates pursuing careers as corrosion specialists? Are they getting enough practical training during their studies so they can immediately fit into corporate ranks and make an impact there?
MARCUS: It depends very much on which institution we’re talking about. In France, we have a complex system with universities on the one hand and Grands Ecoles on the other, which are basically science and engineering universities. The latter, I think, tend to provide their students with a high level of theoretical skills that help understand the matter and a profound experience in practical aspects. It’s a good balance and it’s very important for corrosion specialists, because this is an area where success is hard to achieve without solid scientific background and practical experience.

OGE: Your previous term as EFC president has just expired. Do you plan to run for re-election and what achievements would you single out as highlights of your presidency?
MARCUS: It’s a timely question as we’ve had the meetings of board administrators and the General Assembly here in Moscow on Monday and Tuesday (Sept. 13-14 – OGE), and I have been re-elected for another two-year term. The main objectives have been and still are to boost cooperation between academia, universities, research centers and corporate entities, because this is exactly the kind of environment in which EFC has a key role to play.
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