ASC leads industry effort to create certification program for inspectors
HOUSTON - In its continuous drive to improve safety standards in the oil and gas industry, Aramco Services Co. (ASC) is spearheading a major effort that will produce, for the first time, a standardized certification process for inspectors who oversee the manufacturing of crucial materials and equipment.
ASC has a key role in procuring materials for Saudi Aramco, and therefore has a vested interest to ensure consistent quality standards.
Backed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), this unprecedented effort is expected to further improve safety, establish a basic body of knowledge for inspectors, and help advance recruitment of certified inspectors in the western hemisphere and internationally.
Philip Klefas, supervisor of the ASC Inspection Unit, initiated the process in January 2012 with other petroleum, engineering and construction companies. “We are constantly looking for good inspectors. Quality is always a top priority for everyone in the industry,” he said.
Klefas formed a steering committee that worked together to develop a standardized qualification program for inspectors. As part of that effort, the committee developed an entry-level certification exam, which randomly pulls questions from a set of 300. These questions pertain to standards and codes, the manufacturing processes, inspection tools and equipment, methods of examination, and inspection reference documentation.
The API Certification Program Department is set to administer the exam in March 2013. It will be available, but not required, for inspectors hired on a contractual basis by ASC and others in the industry. Eventually it will be offered internationally and in multiple languages.
Soon, Klefas and his committee will begin developing exams for advanced certifications in electrical, fixed, rotating and drilling equipment.
According to Klefas, the basic and advanced certifications will provide inspectors with a set of credentials that should help ease their ability to find and maintain jobs in the industry. He said that “very few young people are getting into the field,” as many have been drawn into other technological trades, including the IT industry.
“This test will be attractive to them so they can earn their certification and establish a career path on successive levels of certification,” he added.
Having a pool of certified inspectors available will also tremendously reduce the hours ASC and others must spend to find and hire quality inspectors. For decades, Klefas said, ASC has performed long, rigorous interviews to routinely hire quality inspectors – in the absence of a certification process – to ensure the correct fabrication of vessels, valves, compressors and other equipment needed by Saudi Aramco.
Major contributors to the standardization and certification process, in addition to ASC, include ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, Chevron Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Hess Corporation, Marathon, Shell, Fluor Corporation, S&B Engineers and Contractors, Ltd., JGC Corporation, McDermott International Inc., and Foster Wheeler.
“We are continuing to strengthen the industry,” Klefas said. “We benchmark with our competitors constantly on standards and safety practices. We all want the same thing at the end of the day.”
Lucille Nuru, a senior quality advisor who works on the Sadara project, said she looks forward to seeing an expanded network of qualified inspectors. “This effort that Phil is undertaking is going to be very beneficial toward that end.”
While national regulations mandate certain criteria that manufacturers must follow when fabricating electrical and mechanical equipment, Klefas said, the Company often requires higher standards. “We do set a high standard for equipment, and we have high expectations for the quality of our personnel who perform those inspections.”
Majid Alghaslan, manager of ASC Technical Services, said he is extremely supportive of Klefas’ insight and initiative. “Not only is he helping to promote quality and safety for the Enterprise, but also serving as a leader in the oil and gas industry and beyond.”
Phil Klefas, center, supervisor of the ASC Inspection Unit, is spearheading an effort with other industry leaders to establish a standardized certification process for inspectors who oversee the manufacturing of materials and equipment.