Addressing The Nde Technician Shortage

As Demand Outpaces Supply, the Oil and Gas Industry Looks for Creative Solutions

Ask anyone in the pipeline industry, and they’ll tell you there’s a serious shortage of non-destructive evaluation (NDE) technicians in North America. A combination of stronger regulations for legacy lines and new construction, plus a lengthy certification process, has created a situation where demand for technicians outpaces supply.

As the name suggests, NDE provides pipeline owner/operators with a way to validate inline inspection (ILI) findings and evaluate anomalies without the risk of further damage. NDE technicians use magnetic particles, radiography, and high-frequency sound waves to locate anomalies in pipelines. In addition, they can confirm the severity of those anomalies – and that helps operators prioritize repairs and reduce the need for costly multiple excavations.

But the success of NDE largely depends on the technician’s ability to analyze results. And, the specific tools and technologies used to conduct NDE can vary from company to company. To ensure accuracy, it’s critical that technicians know how to use the equipment and how to
interpret the results of testing.

And the only way to guarantee that is through experience – lots of it. All technicians must complete a combination of classroom and field training to earn NDE certification. Classroom hours are more theory- Addressing The NDE Technician Shortage As Demand Outpaces Supply, the Oil and Gas Industry Looks for Creative Solutions F U T U R E T H I N K I N G based, and students can apply what they’ve learned to a broad range of industries, from structural steel to pipelines. After completing the requisite classroom hours, students complete 2,000 + hours of supervised, industry-specific fieldwork, unique to their area of NDE focus.

So far, there’s no single, permanent way to create a pool of trained, qualified NDE technicians,
but there have been some promising developments. Many colleges and technical schools currently offer two-year programs focused on NDE training. In addition, the industry has started to reach out to college graduates with new certification programs that reduce the training hours required for trainees with four-year degrees in engineering or science.

Pipeline service companies are also finding creative ways to build a larger pool of available
NDE technicians: Some are pulling technicians from other departments or even other industries. Because there is a common knowledge base for non-destructive technology (NDT), a technician with years of experience in aerospace, for example, can transition to pipelines.

What’s more, many NDE companies – companies that haven’t previously worked with
pipelines – have started to expand their service offerings beyond structural steel or refineries to include pipeline integrity.

Others in the industry are creating entirely new solutions. Kenny Greene, a Level 3 NDE
technician in Arizona, recently started a pipeline-specific training program that helps students
earn field hours in internship-like arrangements with partner companies. The program, called “WAR2IN” (“Warrior to Inspector”) is aimed at former military personnel. If successful, this type of specialized training may become more common.

The industry is still adapting to the growing demand for NDE technicians. It’s a challenge, to
be sure – but one thing is clear: There’s no shortage of creative ideas that will help draw qualified, talented technicians to the field and help operators ensure that their pipelines are operating safely and effectively.


Article Credits: "Innovations Magazine" - Vol. VIII- No. 1 - 2016