June 2017, Vol. 244, No. 6


New NACE President Expects Hectic Year Battling Corrosion

Samir Degan, president of NACE International for 2017, expects the global association to see yet another hectic year of change and “high-level discussions” focused on fighting corrosion during his tenure.

“I think we at NACE are changing for the better,” Degan said during an interview with P&GJ that took during the annual NACE Corrosion Conference and Expo held March 26-30 in New Orleans. “We have to change to remain relevant and at the forefront of the industry. We have been extremely active in the past year-and-a-half with our strategic plan.”

The strategic plan he referred to is NACE’s Impact Study, which focuses on segments of four major industries: energy, utilities, transportation and infrastructure. Unveiled in 2014, the ongoing study, with continually updating data, focuses on the cost of corrosion and allows companies to keep track their corrosion management practices, while understanding their deficiencies.

As director of Mumbai, India-based Osnar Paints and Contracts, a position he has held for 25 years, Degan’s primary focus has been on inspection involving power plants and offshore drilling rigs. The native of the Mumbai area has been on the association’s Section Governing Board for 15 years and chaired the CORCON conference in India, where he has led many successful initiatives, including one that gained the support of government agencies in the United States and Ministries of Government in India. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Michigan.

In this interview, Degan, who has served in several NACE leadership positions during his 22 years as a member, discusses the desire to improve membership engagement, the ongoing evolution of NACE’s Impact Study, and the need to continue fighting for even better guidelines in the fight against corrosion.  

P&GJ: What are your priorities as president for the coming year?

Degan: To improve our communications across the globe. Fundamentally, when I say that, it means getting our message across to the policymakers and the decision-makers. As one of the key approaches to our strategic policy plan, there is a major push to work with such people. The Impact Study is a wonderful tool for starting this conversation.

We’ve been reasonably successful in expanding the conversation in places like the Middle East and India, and now even in China. The U.S. itself is already very active because we have been presenting our message here for a long time. Fundamentally, we want to meet these decision-makers and policymakers because the point at which they recognize the problem is also when they start to address it. Then things start to happen as far as training, certification and raising the level of consciousness against corrosion, and for safety issues and the longevity of the asset.

P&GJ: Is NACE looking to implement any new services in the near future?

Degan: The board over the past couple of years has come up with a new strategic plan, and one of our key approaches is to extend our education and certification portfolio to include subject matters that will be contemporary. In addition to that, we have the Impact Study, and within that we have a portal that will go online shortly, which we will call Impact Plus, a tool that individuals and companies can use to benchmark themselves and keep track of how good their corrosion-management practices really are. They will be able to understand their deficiencies and as we go forward, this will grow. The Impact Study itself is an ongoing process, an evergreen study. As people continue to participate, of course, the data base gets larger and larger and the validation of that data gets even better.

China is a slightly different place in which to function because of the way the country is set up, but we do have about 1,500 members there. We see potential and have offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong. We have relationships CSCP (Chinese Society for Corrosion Protection) and the Chinese Petroleum Society. We have an agreement in place to sponsor an annual conference with them, the first one coming up in October. In China we have significant support for the maritime industry, and actually the Shanghai section is made up mainly of maritime industry professionals.

As far as India is concerned, because of an accidental meeting with members of the Department of Commerce and the prime minister of India coming to the United States soon after he got elected, there are two commercial dialogues that exist between the United States and India. As a result of all the pressure NACE has exerted in India, the government announced a national mission on corrosion control, technology and standards. That’s going to get a big push that will result in regulations and standards being introduced across the board.

P&GJ: How is NACE progressing in terms of training and recruiting the next generation of technical professionals?

Degan: This is something we’ve been looking at for quite some time now. Last year, we actually had the board fund a project that led to our Leadership Development Program. In June 2016, we had 24 young professionals visit so they could understand how things done are done at NACE. They spent a half day at a board meeting to see how things ran. Since then quite a few of these individuals have taken active positions in various sections around the world, as well as in North America.

Along with that, we have a volunteer management program, which can be found on NACE’s website. Through the website any NACE section or any of our committees can post an opening, allowing people to apply for the position. What we have seen is younger people who don’t know where to start or how to get involved sign up and take these positions. We are also looking at ways to engage people who are graduating from school – how to get them enlisted as full NACE members who participate. The discussion of how to engage them is still going on.

P&GJ: Is there concern among your membership that if the Trump administration is able to move forward with removing restrictions within the industry that this might include inspection-based regulation, thereby reducing their amount of work?

Degan: What I can say from experience is whenever something like this takes place, self-regulation picks up because nobody wants to get into a situation where they get hit with a liability somewhere down the line. Management knows full well if they allow things to meander trouble is going to occur. Insurance rates will shoot up, or the company won’t be able to get insured at all. There is a classic example of this in India. This large upstream oil company wasn’t investing in maintenance programs properly and the insurance premiums more than doubled. Then the government stepped in and said, “You’ve got to do something.” This is obviously not a position anyone want to be placed in.

P&GJ: Do you feel operating companies have stepped up their own efforts to protect their facilities from corrosion in recent years? 

Degan: Definitely. Over the years, despite the downturn, even in cases where things are maybe stretched out a little bit, still nobody is allowing their assets to go unattended. There is just too much of a risk.

P&GJ: What do members view as their biggest challenges, and has the overall slowdown in the industry changed their perspective on this?

Degan: Everybody seems to be waiting for things to pick up. That is what the perception has been for a while, but now things are starting to pick, and we are seeing changes coming and there are investments already announced. I guess this is part of a standard cycle that takes place. What it does that is beneficial is to provide a reality check for all of us and teaches us to avoid wasteful spending as well as becoming more efficient. That’s what seems to be happening in the industry across the board.   

P&GJ: How do the primary concerns of members differ in North America vs. Europe and other regions?

Degan: There are varying perceptions of what NACE is and what it can do. To put it very honestly, the North American market is much more mature than the rest of the world; the rest of the world is learning. Therefore, you have different perceptions. People from other markets would like to be at the level we have over here [North America] but that is a growing process. You can’t just adopt something blindly because then you don’t know how to implement it. For a lot of places in the world things are picking up and moving ahead.

I know for a fact all the large companies around the world – all the non-U.S.-based companies and non-European-based companies, like the Indian Oils of the world and Petrogas and Petrobras and Saudi Aramco – their systems are already robust. They are as good as any in North America or in Europe.

P&GJ: Has the general downturn of the last couple of years affected NACE’s ability to recruit new members?

Degan: It has flattened a little bit, but we have remained at about 36,000 members for the last two years. We were between 36,000 and 36,500 members for the last almost 24 months. I think it has started growing again.

P&GJ: What would you say to someone considering delaying or scrimping on corrosion-fighting efforts due to the economic slowdown?

Degan: You are playing with a bomb. It’s going to end up costing you much more than you could possibly save now.


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