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Interview with Dr Willem Nel

11 Apr


We recently employed a new senior member of staff (Dr Willem Nel) to join our growing team and the abstract below provides a summary of Dr Nel and our interview with him since he joined AIE and moved from South Africa to the United Arab Emirates.

Professional Profile

Dr. Willem Nel


For 25 years, Dr. Nel has built an applied knowledge base on the detection, interpretation and management of material threats to plant integrity.

Professional Career

Dr. Nel started as a mechanical engineer in Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned power utility where he developed ultrasonic testing (UT) inspection procedures for reactor pressure vessels. Utilizing the knowledge gained in UT, he led the development of mechanised non-destructive testing (customised robotics as well as technology sourcing and implementation) for advanced applications.

His insights in non-destructive testing naturally spilled over into the domain of fitness for service assessment from where he advanced his theoretical and applied knowledge base through post graduate studies in computational mechanics to a Master’s level (cum laude), specialising in material degradation.

Establishing himself as an Integrity Consultant in Technology Services International (TSI), a utility owned research and investigations unit, he performed work in various industries including power generation, petrochemical, materials handling, mining, and cement factories. He also undertook various research projects to develop measurement, assessment and mitigation techniques for plant material degradation.

In 2009, he founded Sustainable Concepts (Pty) Ltd (Suscon) as a research and consulting firm from where he conducted high profile integrity work in the oil and gas, nuclear and power generation industries with several project outputs subjected to peer-review by international experts for the purpose of assuring compliance with international regulatory processes.
Dr Nel joined Asset Integrity Engineering five months ago and we interviewed him to ask about his experience in moving to the UAE.

Why do you feel integrity management is important?

We live in an increasingly competitive world today. Capital investments are being challenged to the limit for increased returns while regulatory and public awareness processes are imposing a formidable statutory burden on firms from an HSE point of view. The golden thread that condenses these apparently opposing forces into a common goal is integrity management and it is an undeniable prerequisite for sustained success in the operation of safety critical plant.

In years to come do you believe Integrity services will be more widespread in the industry?

Yes, without a doubt. There may still be a few players who are trying to get away with gung-ho operations, but it is a matter of time before they are taken over by firms that enjoy the competitive edge of proficient integrity management systems, so the spread of quality integrity management happens through a kind of natural evolution.

Explain your role in AIE?

My primary responsibility is as Integrity Team Leader, managing one of our long term Integrity Management service contracts in Sharjah, UAE. The scope covers pressures systems, pipelines, structures, corrosion and materials, inspection and NDT.

What is your biggest challenge in this role?

Every Asset has its own processes, roles and responsibilities in place. It has been a challenge for me to adapt to the procedural and new processes at the plant, but I have received great support from my team. My next challenge will be to return the empowerment that they extended to me so that we keep growing in our performance as a team.

Have you settled in well in the UAE?

Yes, it is always exciting for me to travel and to try new things and this was the same. Of course there are new experiences and logistics involved, but the UAE hosts one of the most cosmopolitan communities in the world and it has been a great experience settling in here. My family saw and experienced the same, so they are also fully invested to share my life in the UAE. It never fails to amaze me how adaptable kids are. It took my 10-year old about three days of observation to be proficient in Arabic numerals and although she is in a British curriculum school, she is quite motivated to learn Arabic as a language.

What do you like most about AIE?

AIE is a dynamic and growing organization and there are many opportunities for future involvement that excites me. These are not only career related opportunities, but also opportunities for community involvement such as guest lectures at universities. I have in my sights on several of these once I manage to free up time from my primary responsibilities.

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