There are several key roles in any fixed equipment mechanical integrity (FEMI) group in a hydrocarbon processing facility. One of those roles is that of the corrosion/materials subject matter expert (C/M SME). API 510/570 defines the Corrosion Specialist (synonym for C/M SME) as: “A person acceptable to the owner/user who is knowledgeable and experienced in the specific process chemistries, degradation mechanisms, materials selection, corrosion mitigation methods, corrosion monitoring techniques, and their impact on equipment and piping systems.” In this article, the roles and responsibilities (R&R) of the C/M SME will be outlined as I see them, fully recognizing that there is probably no one person out there with all the knowledge and skills suggested herein. Rather, the C/M SME, by consulting with other specialists, should be regarded as a composite of all entities necessary to properly address C/M requirements and issues within the operating facility. Those other specialists may be experts in various corrosion mechanisms, materials issues, or corrosion mitigation methods (e.g., HF acid C/M SMEs, cathodic protection (CP) specialists, coatings specialists, welding/fabrication SMEs, etc.).
Depending upon the size of the operating site as well as the aggressiveness of the feedstocks and intermediate process streams, the facility may have more than one C/M SME. I’ve been in a few large sites that have four. On the other hand, smaller sites may have none. Those sites without a C/M SME may just rely on another engineer or inspection specialist to fill each of these roles by communicating as necessary with outside C/M SMEs in a corporate office or with contractors. I also recognize that some of the following R&R will be assigned to non-C/M SMEs like FEMI SMEs or inspectors, which is fine, as long as the role is filled by someone knowledgeable and capable of handling each issue.. Also, some of these R&Rs may be shared with other SMEs at the site; but from my perspective, someone at the site needs to be accountable for making sure all 50 C/M issues listed below are adequately handled in order to avoid leaks, failures and process safety incidents that may otherwise result.
One of the reasons I decided to write about the C/M SME role is that during the many FEMI assessments that I conduct for the API/AFPM Process Safety Site Assessment Program, I find that the documented R&R for many site C/M SMEs is relatively brief and generic (i.e., not very useful and sometimes non-existent). From my perspective, too often they are relatively vague and contain only a very few bullet points with an smattering of HR issues like “work safe,” “do what your boss wants you to do,” and other administrative duties. I’ve skipped all that other stuff and just focused on the technical aspects of the C/M SME job. I believe that for most sites, it’s important for the role of the C/M specialist to be as detailed as possible to make it clear to all other FEMI stakeholders at the site (operations, maintenance, engineering and management) who is responsible for each job duty and who should be involved when C/M issues arise.