More than a paint job
Brendan Fitzsimons has been at the leading edge of coating developments for more than 30 years. In that time he has worked on some surprising projects...
Inspired: Tell us how your career started.
I have always been involved with the corrosion and protective coatings industry. I obtained a master’s degree in material engineering before becoming a Chartered Scientist. I spent eight years working as a coatings technician and adviser to a global coatings consultancy organisation. This role took me to various locations around the world looking at coating projects in the marine, offshore and petrochemical industries.
I then spent 10 years in the offshore construction industry working throughout Europe on oil and gas projects.
I now support the Industrial Services division of Wood in marine, offshore, petrochemical and construction.
Which projects are you most proud of?
I have been involved with numerous projects, from offshore platforms and windfarms; oil and gas pipelines in the UK North Sea, Canada and the Far East; to concrete dams in the Middle East.
I have worked on many military ships and vessels, and prestigious contracts such as the Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland and Tower Bridge in London.
What is the process for specifying a new coating? What do you consider?
The industry strives for innovation. Customers want innovation, yet they want a guarantee that it will work. Expert support is needed to ensure that the products have been thoroughly tested (laboratory or independent) and to ensure that the product can be applied as specified in the product data sheets.
The annualised cost of application, the product itself and lifetime maintenance have to be considered. It may be easy to find fault with a new product, however, a little bit of support or technical advice can enhance a new coating.
Are any areas typically overlooked?
Chemists and engineers are always striving to produce new products. Due to legislation, products need to have minimal solvents and fewer chemicals included in the formula. The product must be able to be stored, mixed and easily applied. Field trials are often overlooked. The value of information from field trials and long-term exposure cannot be underestimated.
What is the most unusual application you have worked on?
I have worked on a lot of unusual assets from a King’s concrete jetty to a pig’s sewage pipeline. I have looked through ducting on one of the world’s biggest cruise liners and tried to establish why coatings have fallen off an aerial mast on top of a skyscraper. I have also climbed around a secret military radar system as the failing coating was effecting the signal.
The most unusual and extreme challenges often arise from surface preparations and coatings for application in very hot conditions such as the Middle East in August or very cold conditions like protecting ship ballast tanks in the Baltic in January.
What advice would you give to customers looking to protect their assets?
Consider the long-term implications, and engage with organisations and people who understand corrosion mitigation and planned maintenance. Coatings are not just for aesthetics. Proper maintenance of assets is the most cost-effective way to control corrosion. Develop or use specifications and standards that have been tried and tested. Listen to people in similar industries.
Don’t chase corrosion, take the lead on arresting it.
Everything is possible in the coatings industry, certain coatings can withstand application in high temperature while others can dry and cure at very low temperatures.
Facilities managers can play a critical role by adopting the right philosophy that considers coatings as part of the overall integrity programme.
If you need help to protect your asset, get in touch with Brendan: email@example.com.
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