The Philosophy Behind The Need For Tacit Experts in AIM by Athan Oparaji

Codes & Standards, softwares and certifications are not total solution to the world’s problems on corrosion and asset integrity management because they were designed and written with changing operating conditions.

They serve as a reference to guide you to the safe engineering path after a careful engineering judgement which is also being reviewed from time to time. But the total solution to these world problems requires tacit knowledge through tacit thinking which supersede because from these knowledge and thinking came the codes and standards, softwares and certifications.

Let’s understand Asset Integrity Management?
As defined by Inspectioneering:
Asset Integrity Management (AIM) is a standard of operating that aims to protect equipment, health, safety, and environment. While there are numerous definitions of AIM, we define AIM as the cradle-to-grave approach to understanding and operating equipment in a safe, reliable manner. AIM does not apply merely to aging infrastructure; instead, it considers all stages of the equipment life cycle, from conception, to engineering and design, construction, operation, inspection, and finally to repair/replacement when necessary.
Finding this holistic building approach to engineering in the interdisciplinary working system of (AIM) makes the professional an asset integrity engineer.

Why is corrosion/asset integrity a global issue?
Significantly catastrophic failures recorded in recent history have linked corrosion & asset integrity failure to health, safety and environmental consequences for operators and the public and fines for negligence have cost hundreds of million dollars.

CORROSION FAILURE: El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion
Early one August morning, a 30-inch natural gas pipeline exploded, killing twelve people who were camping nearby. The cause of the explosion was determined to be a significant reduction in the pipe wall thickness due to severe internal corrosion, bringing into question the adequacy of not only EPNG’s corrosion control program, but also the adequacy of federal safety regulations for natural gas pipelines.

CORROSION FAILURE: Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge Failure
When a section of the Leo Frigo Bridge in Green Bay, Wisconsin, began to shift and droop, investigators determined that corrosive industrial byproducts had damaged its steel supports. The bridge underwent repairs to the tune of about $20 million to combat the effects of corrosion.

CORROSION FAILURE: LCS 2 USS Independence Naval Ship Engine Corrosion
Design flaws in the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships, intended to be affordable and easy to maintain over their lifespans, resulted in severe galvanic corrosion. With coatings, cathodic protection systems and possibly other measures, the Navy has had to create a comprehensive corrosion management solution” for the additional ships in the LCS class.

CORROSION FAILURE: Lowe’s Motor Speedway Bridge Collapse
A complete lack of corrosion control led to the collapse of a pedestrian bridge crossing U.S. Highway 29, resulting in a number of injuries. A highly corrosive compound used against regulations during the bridge’s construction, was found to be the culprit.

CORROSION FAILURE: Sinopec Gas Pipeline Explosion:

An oil pipeline explosion in eastern China killed dozens and took an extreme environmental toll, resulting in the evacuation of 18,000 nearby residents. The disaster was traced back to oil leaking from a corroded underground pipeline.
With all the world recognized certification training courses on corrosion and asset integrity the whole world is still in panic of failure/loss in our refineries,petrochemical plants, onshore and offshore plants facilities, nuclear and thermal power plants etc.

For example,
CORROSION FAILURE: Fukushima Nuclear Plant Tank Leak
Corrosion of water tanks used to store hundreds of tons of radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is causing a severe environmental hazard. The leak was described by Japan’s nuclear regulator as the worst accident at Fukushima since the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 caused reactors to melt.
Another example: In 2017, the North Sea in UK lost out on 14.7 million barrels of oil due to asset integrity issues. That equates to roughly $926m at today’s oil price.

Recently on June 21, 2019 this year, Philadelphia Oil Refinery Explosion did shake the city with huge Fireball.

This means something is still missing. There’s a need for not only the application of the explicit knowledge of Data,information, documents,records and files but also the application of tacit knowledge through tacit methodology of the experience, imagination, visualization, thinking,competence and commitment to solve the world problems.

For instance, design and risk based inspection are based on general corrosion rate since design life/remaining life is estimated by corrosion allowance but in real service, catastrophies/failures occur due to localized thinning, pitting or cracking corrosion.

So, this big gap or margin in “Risked Based Inspections – RBI which is a tool & Design in piping, pipeline and equipment resulting in unpredictable surprises of failures/catastrophies is what we close with the tacit methodology.

Codified explicit knowledge & certification can help as a guide to regulate business solutions in contract execution, reduce corruption at design and construction stage. This can not be removed from the equation. But to provide the solutions of corrosion and asset integrity require tacit experts starting from design stage,commissioning, in service and decommissioning of the asset.
RBI is a tool to facilitate the work, help reduce human errors and lead the team at the right spot , and its success depends on how it’s used by the corrosion/asset integrity expert/team.

Here, corrosion and erosion have to go hand in hand so that corrosion engineers have to work closely with process and operation engineers with the consultation of piping and material engineers involved starting at the design stage to be conversant with phase fluids,short radius blends, abrupt changes in flow directions, fluid velocities in pipes etc.

Localized Corrosion is complex and still a big mystery with a lot of controversy which is a metallurgical phenomenon. It’s in a state of flux which requires continuous study and tacit knowledge is what makes you understand this phenomenon.

“Without tacit knowledge of iron carbon phase diagram /effect of alloying and interaction of elements based on polarity and size of atoms in metals and environment in periodic table, one can’t understand asset integrity” – Mahendra Kumar Rastogi

Because of lack of tacit experts, our assets are suffering from hundreds of types of known and unknown types of damages which are highly localized thinning or cracking which is tedious to identify.

So, to deal with these global issues of corrosion/asset integrity starts from management vision, commitment to inspectors know how, advanced ndt monitoring, engineers and analytics which are they tacit experts.

Management of localized corrosion needs vision and strategy,skills,resources, incentives and timely proactive action. Though the listed approach can help but to fight the problem tacit expert is a must to visualize the damages with the power of knowledge,imagination and experience since 100% inspection is not guaranteed.

written by Athan Oparaji you can follow him on twitter at @athanoparaji linkedin Athan Oparaji and Instagram @Athanoparaji


  1. Pipeline Accident Report,Natural Gas Pipeline Rupture and Fire,Near Carlsbad, New Mexico August 19, 2000 National Transportation Safety Board Washington, D.C.
  5. Builder Blames Navy as Brand-New Warship Disintegrates from ›


  1. One thing I cherish about this article is the statement “…engineering and design, construction…” that clearly demarcates between engineering and construction. This is because both are done differently by different sets of competences.


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