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Addressing challenges facing NDT development

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The oil and gas industry and other sectors of the nations economy are currently in need of indigenous experts, who specialize in Non-Destructive Testing (NDT). With only eight in-country level three NDT practitioners, foreign exchange conservation as well as reduction of expatriates, particularly from India and China into Nigeria’s petroleum sector could remain elusive if government and stakeholders failed to act proactively. KINGSLEY JEREMIAH writes

Nondestructive testing (NDT) is regarded as an analysis techniques used in science and technology to evaluate the properties of a material.

In the oil and gas sector, assets such as refineries, pipelines, floating or fixed platforms, drilling rigs, tanks, vessels, heat exchangers or other equipment require the most advanced integrated NDT solutions, particularly because of the complexity of assets within the oil and gas industry, and the growing need for improved safety, increased uptime, reduced environmental impact, lower production costs and higher Return on Investment.

   
With asset Integrity Management  (AIM) programmes, Integrity Services, and Risk Based Inspections, experts expect the life cycle of oil and gas assets to significantly improved increasing ROI 

NDT systems provide clarity that will enable companies identify, characterise and size flaws, enabling effective, safe, and productive asset management. They equally believe the sector would improve in terms of weld quality, internal and external corrosion/erosion, cracking, metallurgical damage and mechanical damage, as NDT solutions would provide facts you need to protect investment and reduce the potential for risk to quality,  safety, productivity and the environment. 

They include the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Simbi Wabote, Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Prof.  Akaehomen  Ibhodode, President of Institute of Non-Distructive Testing Nigeria (INDTN), Johnson Umukoro, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, and many others.

Recently, stakeholders at the International Conference of  INDTN in Warri, noted that the applications of NDT cut across key sectors of the nation’s economy insisted that growing decay of infrastructure in the sector is connected to the lack of human capacity to handle advanced level of non-destructive testing.
 
To underscore the challenge, while India and U.S. alone have over 20, 000 NDT practitioners, Nigeria has only about eight in-country specialists with level three certification in NDT. Considering the need for such service in the country, particularly in the oil and gas sector, International Oil Companies and indigenous companies are reportedly importing such skill to complement local efforts.
 
Basically, most NDT personnel certification schemes exist in three levels of certification. The first level experts are technicians qualified to perform only specific calibrations and tests under close supervision and direction by higher-level personnel.

Level two certification are engineers or experienced technicians, who are able to set up and calibrate testing equipment, conduct the inspection according to codes and standards (instead of following work instructions) and compile work instructions for Level one technician. Under level three, there are specialized engineers, who can establish NDT techniques and procedures and interpret codes and standards and equally direct NDT laboratories and have central role in personnel certification. 

Available data indicates that there are only eight level three certified Nigerians for NDT in-country. Only the four out of the eight can handle the four basic NDT Methods. Again, only two out of the four Nigerians can handle jobs in line with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standards and best practice.

On top of that, it is hard to find a Nigerian in-country that can handle the advanced NDT Methods. This demonstrates a critical human capital gap in-country for NDT and related services, Wabote, who was represented by Timbiri Augustine of NCDMB’s Capacity Building Division disclosed.

He said, “we should be worried about these established gaps and be determined to drive concerted efforts, commitments and collaboration towards closing the gaps.”   
   
If optimal utilisation of the potentials and opportunities offered by NDT and related services in the Oil and Gas Industry in Nigeria would be achievable, the experts said there was need to drive sustainable development of local capacity and capabilities and periodic categorisation of companies in line with industry standards and global best practices. There should also be collaboration among stakeholders and sustainable commitment towards the development and growth of Nigerian Content, including human capital development and certification.
   
Prof. Ibhodode, who linked the countrys infrastructure decay to lack of NDT capacity called for legislation that would create a national roadmap for NDT development in Nigeria.
 
To him, the development of such sector is good to growth standard of living, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and per capita income. 
   
Umukoro said Nigeria lack adequate certified NDT personnel required to man various industries, unlike some developed nations like India, Britain, USA that boast of NDT personnel in their thousands, adding that there are no indigenous companies involved in the manufacturing of consumables for NDT applications locally.
 
There are no accredited NDT equipment maintenance and calibration companies in Nigeria. There is high influx of foreign Level III personnel conducting certifications, most times not to the required standard.

In Nigeria currently, there is no national NDT accredited qualification framework. There is lack of funding, well-equipped and updated resource materials for research work, Umukoro stated. 
 
According to him, Nigeria is not in the world map of NDT, because of the absence of a coordinated institution in the past.
 
If the situation would change, the NDTN president said the country must engage in a strategic drive to raise a number of properly trained and certified NDT personnel, liaise with corporate bodies and government agencies to develop standards and promote the implementation of best practices in NDT in Nigeria, institute a national training and certification programmes in NDT, accredited to international standard, and promote research in NDT technology and practice.
 
“We are trying to build a body of knowledge that would help Nigeria as it is elsewhere. There’s a gab in the number of people who are certified in NDT, because of this we have foreigners doing the jobs we should do. For the country to operate, NDT has a major role to play. For a functional economy we need more Nigerian NDT experts,” Umukoro said.


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