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Coating Condition Surveys: An Overview, Part 1


By Lee Wilson

I have always expressed my concerns in regard to the health and safety of offshore workers due to oil and gas leaks as well as structural failure caused by corrosion.

The U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive has taken a stronger stance on the significant corrosion issues the offshore oil and industry is still facing. So how far have we come in 2017? Are we now in a safer position with a reduction in leaks and structural failure caused by corrosion?

North Sea drilling rigs
© / mikeuk

The U.K. offshore oil and gas industry is now in a position where many of its North Sea platforms have been producing and servicing our needs for 25 to 30-plus years, which in many cases is well beyond many of the assets’ intended lifespans.

I have to say I am afraid we are not, with recent reported accidents occurring offshore resulting in personal injury and attributed directly to corrosion.

We have to face facts: The U.K. offshore oil and gas industry is now in a position where many of its North Sea platforms have been producing and servicing our needs for 25 to 30-plus years, which in many cases is well beyond many of the assets’ intended lifespans, especially taking into consideration the severity of the corrosion environment in which these platforms are situated (C5M in accordance with ISO 12944 in most cases). This in itself creates an abundance of challenges.

Years of neglect through a general lack of risk-based inspection (RBI) and a general lack of fabric maintenance for external corrosion has ultimately led to a number of North Sea assets falling into a serious and potentially fatal state of disrepair.

Because of the increased scrutiny, there has been a significant increase in the demand for coating and corrosion condition surveys on oil and gas installations, and rightly so! However, many are undertaking surveys without the correct knowledge, information, experience and strategic planning required in order to execute a successful coating condition survey, and the result is often major problems for owners and operators from a health and safety and financial perspective.

So why is this happening?

I personally believe it comes down to a lack of general planning, knowledge and experience with regard to coating condition surveys.

In order to execute a successful coating condition survey for asset integrity management, it is essential to develop a strategic pre-planning program of what is to be surveyed, and to decide exactly what data to collect. This is essential to the efficiency and cost effectiveness of both baseline surveys and ongoing inspections for coating facility asset management programs.

To put It simply: It is essential to know what is required before initiating a costly coating condition survey.

In this two-part blog series, I'll summarize what's necessary to carry out a successful coating condition survey. In part one, below, we'll look at what should be worked out ahead of the survey, what information to look for and what qualifies an inspector for this kind of survey. Next week, in part two, we'll examine some of the standards used in coating condition surveys, and the process itself.

Who, What, When, Where, How

There are many factors to consider during the planning stage of any coating condition survey; however, I personally believe that the following are vital in order to execute a successful strategic survey from a fabric maintenance perspective:

  • Pre-determine primarily what areas, zones or safety critical elements (SCE) to survey. (Identify scope.)
  • Determine survey type (i.e., full, partial or SCE-based).
  • Confirm what data is to be collected, how it is to be collected and how it is to be reported.
  • Determine the access available or needed in order to survey the coating system.
  • Confirm the experience of personnel required for surveying.
  • Determine the equipment and resources required in order to execute the survey.
  • Confirm a reasonable timeframe for the survey.
  • Collate and gather technical drawings such as piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), as builds, coating specifications and structural plans.
  • Determine the type of visual standard to be used for the survey for visual comparison.
  • Establish testing methods (i.e., visual, destructive or non-destructive testing).
  • Review historical data (if known or present).

Having historical data is very useful for the pre-planning team and the surveyor. Typically, before any coating condition surveys are conducted it will be very useful to the project team to gather some history on the plant or equipment to be surveyed. The age of the plant or equipment, previous coating survey reports, previous maintenance or any outstanding issues such as leaks, corrosion, emergency work should be discussed and identified as priority survey areas. It is vital to establish if technical drawings or specifications exist, as these will be extremely useful in conducting the survey and identifying locations.

Offshore rig
© / brazzo

Because of the increased scrutiny, there has been a significant increase in the demand for coating and corrosion condition surveys on oil and gas installations.

The above are but a few critical points to take into consideration post-coating survey; however, it is clear from the above factors that a great deal of pre-planning is required in order to determine the correct strategy to implement for the coating condition survey.

To break down the above it is essential to determine what coating condition survey data points will help the asset manager in managing and executing a strategic and successful future fabric maintenance program, as ultimately the data collated will be used for maintenance either reliability-based, safety critical-based or general based.

A full comprehensive coating condition survey is often carried out primarily to:

  • Ascertain the actual condition of the coating system which is in place;
  • Determine and premature failure areas;
  • Confirm the suitability of the original installed coating system;
  • Confirm that original coating selections are correct for service and process environments and are performing;
  • Evaluate the physical aspects of installed coating systems or to ensure that the coating has been applied as per specification requirements; and
  • Provide an ability tool to pre-empt corrosion failure.

About the Surveyor

There has always been great interest in regard to the experience and qualifications required for the coating condition surveyor! Very often, companies request a NACE 3 or ICorr 3 coating or painting inspector as a minimum education requirement; however, having extensive inspection experience does not necessarily make one a good coating condition surveyor.

It is essential that the coating surveyor must have considerable experience in the coatings industry, which is usually attained by coating inspection qualifications coupled with extensive field experience. We have to remember that the surveyor must be able to develop comprehensive field coating condition reports, which will include recommendations and will be used in future maintenance contracts. This means that the surveyor must, at minimum, be able to:

  • Follow technical drawings, P&IDS, specifications, as builds and plot plans;
  • Evaluate surface areas and identify survey zones;
  • Evaluate corrosion breakdown and coating breakdown;
  • Identify coating failure types;
  • Recommend remedial actions;
  • Report accurately and precisely collating comprehensive data;
  • Use sensitive inspection equipment usually not used for normal coating inspection; and
  • Liaise with senior personnel such as offshore installation managers, plant managers, fabric maintenance coordinators and asset integrity managers.

He or she must also be able to read structural drawings, P&IDs and plant plot plans as well as estimate surface areas and break down percentages. These are not factors usually taught in a protective coating inspection course. What is clear is that the coating condition surveyor should have the necessary experience to be able to conduct the tests, write detailed, comprehensive and unbiased reports and make recommendations that will be required for future coating operations.

In this space next week, I'll discuss some of the international standards that are most important in coating condition surveys, some of the tools and tests involved and the process itself.


Lee Wilson

Lee Wilson, CEng, FICorr, is a NACE Level 3-certified CIP Instructor, NACE Corrosion Specialist, NACE Protective Coating Specialist and Senior Corrosion Technologist, as well as an ICorr Level 3 Painting Inspector and Level 2 Insulation Inspector. The author of the best-selling Paint Inspector’s Field Guide, Lee was named one of JPCL Top Thinkers: The Clive Hare Honors in 2012. Contact Lee.



Tagged categories: EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Engineers; Inspection; Institute of Corrosion (ICorr); Lee Wilson, CEng, MICorr; NACE; North America; Quality Control; Quality control; SSPC; Offshore; Oil and Gas

Comment from WAN MOHAMAD NOR WAN ABDUL RAHMAN, (8/24/2017, 2:44 AM)

Very interesting article, Lee.

Comment from Lim Derric , (8/24/2017, 4:08 AM)

To begin with, most certified inspectors are quick to identify issues but are not able to provide viable recommendations or solutions. Perhaps this is due to the lack of field experiences.

Comment from David Grove, (8/24/2017, 6:59 AM)

I have always been amazed that more is not presented to the client or owner with conditional surveys. As the manager of corrosion control and interior maintenance for 47 offshore drilling rigs around the world, we standardized coating systems, work processes, suppliers and many other items, to be able to plan and correct the existing issues. This also allowed us to evaluate performance, predict upcoming failures and improve longevity. Refer to JPCL’s February 1998 article “Planning Maintenance Painting for Offshore Drilling Rigs: One Company’s Experience.” Owners and maintenance managers should understand that to maximize efficiency and minimize costs, decisions need to made on a broader basis then assuming one survey would provide all the answers. Our program required an initial survey, then a 12 month survey, then every 18 months after that. This information was compared to other similar areas on our other rigs. Most problems were not the coatings, but not understanding actually what caused the impacts in successful painting projects. At the start of our program, selections were made for surface preparation to ensure a clean surface existed before final surface preparation was even started. Selections were made based upon the chemicals and conditions that would exist in each area of the rigs. Evaluating contractors on quality and safety was only part of the selection process. All the information helped us reduce costs and prepare budgets much more efficiently. I would also suggest that before a survey take place, the inspector/consultant sit down the owner’s representative and discuss the operational conditions and collateral impacts for working everything that currently exists within their plant. This type of understanding allowed us to determine if an area needed to be worked while drilling, while the rig was in transit or in the shipyards. It even helped us decide if we wanted to hydro blast, abrasive blast or power tool certain areas. It was a team effort and with the support of our executives, our management and our owners, our program greatly improved safety and service life with minimal impacts to the operations.

Comment from Ray Vickers, (8/24/2017, 7:20 AM)

NACE has developed two fine courses to address coating system failure and corrosion assessment on both Off Shore platforms and onboard US NAVY vessels. They address the issues and concerns you have identified in your excellent article and allow the "in-service" coatings inspector to have a basic skill set to do the type of surveys required and provide valuable information to address conditions found and recommendations. Many thanks for this great article Mr. Wilson.

Comment from Steve Brierley, (8/24/2017, 7:50 AM)

Great blog post! Just a note to say I fully agree with your comments re the quality and experience of NACE or ICorr level 3 ‘inspectors’ carrying out coating condition surveys Most can carry out general paint coating inspection duties but fail miserably when asked to carry out a coating condition survey. As you state pre planning is key; it’s this plan, or the team that develops this plan, that determines if the survey will be a viable, productive and easy to understand one or not. Many surveyors (and that’s what they are, surveyors, not inspectors) require a more than general knowledge of: • Fabric maintenance techniques including various methods of repair/ surface preparation techniques • Extensive knowledge of different types of paint and coatings • Experience reading/working knowledge of P&ID’s • Plot plans and marking up of such • Creation of ‘workable’ plot plans which split the asset into traceable areas or zones • Pipe/spool Isometric drawings • Corrosion loop data • Annotation of photographs • Excellent computer literacy • Report writing This is assuming the operator has this type of information; in my experience the drawings supplied by the client are very poor and inadequate to say the least especially for aged assets requiring this type of survey. Another comment you made refers to historical data from previous surveys. If they are available, most are not worth the paper they are written on since they have been carried out by the very company that normally execute the ‘recommended’ work. In the main, this has been on a ‘work generation’ basis with large areas easy to measure, access and treat and not the actual condition of the asset. In the main data capture is dysfunctional; often important information is missed or duplicated with many ‘departments’ not communicating for the good of the asset. This is due to defence of ‘their budget’ and can even depend on the personalities involved. The onshore planning team needs to have access to corrosion engineers and inspection departments to ensure all their information, data and findings are captured to provide the Client with a workable, fully integrated, document. Finally, asset owners need to appreciate the time required to carry out a thorough coating condition survey including time back in the office to collate data. A good coating condition survey should naturally evolve into a five year maintenance plan (minimum) and provide information for work scopes and tender documents. As well as creating/providing information for paint inspectors to inspect at execution stage. Just my two-penneth; maybe its coating condition survey eutopia…

Comment from Lee Wilson, (8/25/2017, 7:46 AM)

Some excellent comments well said Steve

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