This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features Danny Molyneux and Diane Cordell discussing PPSA, where the association originated from and why it is important to the industry.
In this episode, you will learn about different ways PPSA provides public support, as well as the levels of memberships and the benefits received from the association.
PPSA Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms:
- Danny Molyneux is an Account Executive with Quest Integrity as well as Director of the Pigging Products and Services Association and a member of the Pipeline Technology Conference Advisory Committee. Connect with Danny on LinkedIn
- Quest Integrity is a global leader in the development and delivery of asset integrity and reliability management services. The company’s integrated solutions consist of technology-enabled, advanced inspection and engineering assessment services and products that help organizations in the pipeline, refining, chemical, syngas and power industries improve operational planning, increase profitability, and reduce operational and safety risks.
- Diane Cordell is the Executive Secretary for the Pigging Products and Services Association. Connect with Diane on LinkedIn.
- The Pigging Products and Services Association (PPSA) was founded in 1990 by Jim Cordell and now has over 120 members from over 20 countries, representing the pigging industry throughout the world. The Association is entirely funded by its members through their annual subscription fees. Its aims are, “To promote the knowledge of pigging and its related products and services by providing a channel of communication between the members themselves, and with users and other interested parties”.
- Pigging refers to using devices known as “pigs” to perform maintenance operations. This tool associated with inline pipeline inspection has now become known as a Pipeline Inspection Gauge (PIG)
- ASGMT (American School of Gas Measurement Technology) is the largest gas measurement school in the United States that is devoted to natural gas measurement, pressure regulation, flow control, and other measurement related arenas. It is divided into seven main subject groups: Fundamental Measurement, Gas Quality, Distribution, General and Advanced Measurement, Transmission, Office Procedures and Accounting, and Hands-On training.
- The Buyers Guide is a tool provided by PPSA to help select products and services for maintaining your pipeline assets.
- The Young Pipeline Professionals Europe (YPPE) is a group of highly motivated young professionals working within the pipeline industry with the aim of knowledge sharing to ensure the longevity of the industry, addressing the industry’s skill shortage and foster relationships.
PPSA Full Episode Transcript:
Russel Treat: Welcome to “The Pipeliners Podcast”, episode 292, sponsored by EnerSys Corporation, provider of POEMS, the Pipeline Operations Excellence Management System, compliance and operations software for the pipeline control center to address control room management, SCADA, and audit readiness.
Find out more about POEMS at EnersysCorp.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. And now your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time, and to show that appreciation, we give away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener every episode. This week our winner is Brian Gatley with Summit Midstream. To learn how you can win this signature prize, stick around till the end of the episode.
This week we speak to Danny Molyneux with Quest Integrity and Diane Cordell with the Pipeline Picking Suppliers Association, about the PPSA. Danny, Diane, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast.
Danny Molyneux: Thanks, Russel.
Diane Cordell: Thanks, Russel. Good to talk to you again.
Russel: It’s great to have you guys on. I’ve not had anybody from PPSA talk to me yet, so this is awesome. I don’t know why you waited so long.
Diane: I don’t know either. Thanks for the opportunity. We’re really excited to be here, to talk about our association.
Russel: Let me start out by asking you guys to introduce yourselves. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do, and how you got into your current role. If you don’t mind, Diane, would you go first?
Diane: First, I’d like to say hello to all the listeners. Just to introduce myself, I’m Diane Cordell and I’m the executive secretary of the Pigging Products and Services Association.
Russel: What’s a little bit about your background? How long have you been there and what were you doing before?
Diane: I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and the association was set up by my father-in-law, and then the role of secretary passed to a lady called Jill Holdy. When she retired, then I took on the role.
Russel: I see. You’re like a lot of pipeliners. You inherited it. Whatever that pipelining gene was, you inherited it. That’s good. Danny, same question for you, a little bit about who you are and your background, and your involvement with PPSA.
Danny: Sure. My name is Danny Molyneux. I’m based in Aberdeen, in Scotland in the UK. My day job is a technical advisor with quest integrity, so I focus on ultrasonic inline inspection of challenging pipelines.
My involvement with the PPSA, I guess I’ve been involved for about six years as a member, more recently as a director, and a president for this year. I have one more year on the board after this, and it stemmed from my involvement with the young pipeliners associations. I was chair of YPP Europe and Young Pipeliners International.
Russel: Awesome. We had connected in the past. That’s awesome.
Danny: That’s right. You guested on one of our web shows back in 2020 during the COVID time, thank you.
Russel: Yeah, way back in the beginning days. It’s interesting, I started this in 2017 and it’s amazing to me how many people I’ve met and how many conversations I’ve had. It’s been a real gift to me. It’s a fair amount of work, but it’s a real gift as well. Meeting people like you guys and having these kinds of conversations is really awesome.
Tell us a little bit about PPSA. First, we got to decode the acronym for anybody who doesn’t know. What is PPSA? When were you founded, and what’s your history? Where do you guys come from?
Diane: The acronym, PPSA, is the Pigging Products & Services Association. We were founded in 1990 by Jim Cordell, who’s my father-in-law. He originally worked for TDW, so he had a lot of experience in designing pigs, and then he broke away as a consultant.
At that time, he realized that there was a need for a communication channel between the people who used the pigs and the people who were providing the pigging services and the products. He wanted to be able to tell the operators about the good work that was available to them and make it easy for them to find out about pigging.
Russel: I think it’s so interesting in our industry how many people have an idea about how they can add value for the industry and then just get behind it and it becomes something that’s significant for the business over time. That’s awesome.
Diane: I think it started originally with just a questionnaire being sent out to all the people who made pigs at that time. Then it just started small with about 13 members who replied and said, “Yes, we’d like to be a part of this.” Then it’s just grown from there.
Russel: That’s awesome. That’s how these things start. Somebody gets an idea, goes to the people that he or she knows, and starts tilling the ground, and the next thing you know, you’ve got a worldwide industry association.
What is the mission of PPSA? What’s your primary thing? It sounds like you started from the idea of helping operators understand who was out there and what their capabilities were. What is your mission now?
Diane: Funny enough, the mission is the same. It’s still to tell the operators what’s available and, as technology moves on, just to let them know how things are advancing. There’s a slightly new mission as well there about the sustainability of the future of the industry and making sure that we are prepared for the future and we have enough knowledge there and enough young people as well.
Russel: The young people thing, that’s a big deal for our business. We’re not in a vogue industry. 30 years ago, we were, and everybody wanted to be in oil and gas. That’s not so true anymore.
Diane: No, it’s still important and we realize the importance and the good work that our members do, keeping the pipelines running and how important it is that the pipelines are efficient and safe. Our members do a fantastic job, but it’s not always seemed like that, at the moment, especially with the idea of reducing carbon.
Russel: Yeah, no doubt. What are the kinds of memberships at PPSA?
Diane: There’s three main kinds of memberships. There are full members who manufacture pigs and provide the services. Then, there’s the associate members who are connected to the industry.
They might be battery manufacturers, or they might make the polymers or that thing, brushes. Then, we have our individual members who are more consultants, provide training.
Russel: Interesting. You don’t have a classification of membership for the operators themselves?
Diane: Well, we do have some. They fit into the associate category there. Some are very supportive of what we do, and they provide papers and that sort of thing, to help the training of people. We have good communication with them as well about what their needs are.
Russel: I’ll just talk a little bit about my history. I’ve been very involved in measurement for years and very involved with the American School of Gas Measurement Technology. That school was started in the 60s, so it’s quite old, at least in that context.
It was originally started by operators, but over time it’s evolved and it’s more driven by industry than it is by operators. You guys have a very different history in that you’ve always been driven by industry, by the vendors and suppliers.
You’ve not been driven by or organized initially by the operators themselves. That’s interesting and intriguing to me. It’s a little bit unique, at least in my experience of pipelining.
Diane: We’re there for the operators to let them know what’s available, and we have a good relationship with them. We don’t have a membership category per se because a lot of the information is available for free anyway, and because we’re there for the members, we provide, for example, our technical inquiry service all over the world where anyone can just contact us and say what they need.
The members, the operators, don’t have to have a direct…they don’t have to pay to get the information. We just provide it for them because that’s why we’re here.
Danny: That seems to be where the operator gets involved. Sometimes we can be an excellent conduit to a solution for the operators. They’ll come to the PPSA with a specific question or a requirement, and then an email will go out to all the members of the association and call for a solution connecting any provider of that solution directly with the person who needs it.
Russel: Yeah. No, that’s interesting. I just find that fascinating. I could see where back in 1990, as tools were just beginning to mature and proliferate where there was a need for that. Even now, there’s so much technical advancement that occurs, and so much specialization, and so many unique and difficult use cases for doing inline inspection.
I can see where having a clearinghouse to connect people with needs to people with expertise is really important. In this domain, that’s not an easy thing to do. There’s so much technology and so much expertise.
I wouldn’t think that’s the easiest thing in the world to do. For me, thinking about all the different categories that there might be, it’s a bit mind boggling.
Danny: Yeah, and I think the PPSA does that really well by means of the buyers guide. Which really identifies many different types of services and requirements, and then can easily connect with a variety of providers of those services.
Russel: Tell us a little bit about the buyer’s guide. What is it and how’s it published and put together and that sort of thing.
Danny: I think that’s one for you, Diane.
Diane: Yeah. It’s available in at least two formats. There’s the more sort of clickable accessible format, which is on our website where people can click on the buyer’s guide tab, and then it shows them all the different categories. Then by clicking on the category, they can then see the list of people who provide a particular product or service.
Then by clicking on the name of the person, they obviously then get through to the company themselves and how to contact them. Then we also provide it as a chart, which takes up four pages. Yeah, the Pipeline and Gas Journal very kindly publishes that for us every August in their picking edition.
That’s due to come out very soon. That’s quite a fun way. That’s the way that I show people when we go to the exhibitions. I get out the big chart and a ruler and show them who does what in the industry.
Russel: Of course there’s a whole bunch of who’s local, right? Local being a relative thing. Who has the tools, who has the capabilities, the analytical capabilities, and who can get here the easiest. That often can be a big part of it.
Diane: Yeah. That detail comes in when we have the actual technical inquiries, which come through the sort of email, website side of it, which people can then specify exactly where their job is, or where they want some equipment sent to.
Russel: I’m just perusing the buyer’s portion of the PPSA website. There’s a lot there. There’s quite a lot there. You’ve talked about your membership, you’ve talked a little bit about the types of membership. How are you organized? What is the structure? Are you run primarily by volunteers? Do you have staff? How does all that work?
Diane: We’re a nonprofit organization and so we run purely through the fee from the membership of our members. We’re organized by having basically directors. Danny is our president, and then the vice president, and the past president, and then three other directors.
There’s a sort of little team of six plus our treasurer. Yeah, they’re all volunteers. We couldn’t run without them because they helped us provide a strategy. They give us a sounding board for ideas and advice. There’s a vetting process for new memberships, for example.
When we have meetings, we can talk about what we should be doing with our resources and what’s the best way forward. A typical role would be for two years, unless you are a president like Danny and then he gets up to four years.
Russel: Yeah, that’s a big commitment. Guys, we’ve talked quite a bit about what are the benefits to the operators. We haven’t really talked about what the benefits are to members. What are the benefits for the membership for being involved with PPSA?
Danny: Yeah, maybe I’ll jump in to answer that first since I experienced first hand those benefits when I was a member, and still do, as I’m still a member. As a salesperson, one of the things I really appreciated was getting new leads.
For instance, I’d get an email from the PPSA probably every week or every two weeks with someone in the world needing some service. Sometimes I could provide that service and it would be worth starting that discussion with them. Sometimes not. I think it’s always valuable as a sales guy to have these leads coming in.
Russel: What would you do when you couldn’t provide the service? Would you refer it to somebody else? Or how would you handle that?
Danny: Sometimes, for sure. Even in recent years if I get an inquiry and I know a company that can handle that or a former company, then I’ll put them in touch with them. Yeah, I think for the most part, we have quite a broad member base. The people that can provide these services should already be getting those inquiries.
Russel: I have a pretty strong opinion about salesmanship, particularly professional engineering centric, consultative centric selling, as opposed to what a lot of people think of when they hear about selling, which is kind of used car-ish.
Certainly in this domain, technical expertise is important. It’s critical. It’s a key value. We actually have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that operators are making good decisions to the best of our ability. At least that’s the way I view it.
To what degree does PPSA support helping people get that technical capability so they can work more effectively with the operator? How does that play into your mission and what you guys do?
Danny: I think there’s a couple of ways in which we do that. One of them is to pass it directly on to the members, right? We have a question come in and we’re pretty confident that someone in our membership base has the capability to answer that correctly.
That’s certainly one way to do it, is just provide a direct link with the experts. Another way is through our seminars and our technical advisors. Diane, could you talk a little bit more about the technical advisors and the roles that they provide?
Diane: Absolutely. Yeah. There’s a number of technical advisors around the world, so some inquiries get sent to them. It really depends on the nature of the inquiry. If they’re asking for information about design or something like that, something a bit more consultancy, then I would pass that particular inquiry on to the advisors.
Or if it’s perhaps something a bit more confidential, then I wouldn’t send that out obviously to the whole membership I would choose, or who would be the best person to be able to help and support somebody with that. Yeah, they provide a critical role as well.
Russel: What is a technical advisor?
Diane: They tend to be an individual member. We talk about the membership categories, so that’s someone who’s perhaps a consultant or provides training. We’ve agreed between ourselves that they will be a technical adviser and that they will be there, ready to support people when they come in with an inquiry.
Russel: That’s fascinating. That’s a pretty significant opportunity for consultants in this domain to build relationships and add value. When you get an inquiry and it’s a non-standard or technically challenging inquiry, then you have people you can say, “Could you evaluate this and help me understand where to send it?”
Diane: Yes, absolutely. Obviously, there has to become a line between because a person isn’t paying the consultant for the first few communications, as it were. You can give a bit of support and a bit of help and point somebody in the right direction.
Perhaps give them some figures to be working on in a design, but there might become a stage when you say actually this is quite a large project. We happen to be designing something new here, or something like that. It’s another skill for the technical advisor to know how much information to give.
Russel: That’s actually an interesting question, I think, Diane about an industry association like this is that I would assume that over the years you’ve had to develop some pretty clear policy and guidelines for how you handle leads, and what you expect of your memberships about how they handle leads.
Because there’s a lot of opportunity for that to get twisted, I’ll just say it that way. Having good policy, and having some rules of the road, if you will, are quite important to be able to really make that work well for the operators.
Diane: Yeah. Funnily enough, I don’t think the rules are really written down. They’re one of these kinds of things which you just watch what’s happening. Then maybe step in if you have to say that perhaps something’s gone for too long or something like that with the consultancy side of it.
Or if someone’s not responding appropriately, then you sort of might dive in and say something, but it is not actually written down. A lot of it’s common sense and unknown that you’ve got to build a good relationship with the operator or the user.
Russel: Common sense is not all that common. I get your point. It goes to culture, right?
Russel: If you have an organization, if it’s been around a long time and there’s an understanding about those things, you can pretty easily understand what those are. You’re right, it is common sense.
Danny: What we do have in writing is a pretty robust antitrust statement. We kick off every meeting that we have with that statement so that everyone is fully aware. That yes we are an association formed by essentially competitors. Yeah, it’s a collaborative association, but yeah, there’s a strong antitrust element there.
Russel: That was actually one of the other questions I was going to ask. Because I would assume that it has to be part of your governance to have that kind of thing in place.
Diane: Yeah. Before every meeting we talk about that. Just say what we can discuss and what we can’t discuss.
Russel: I want to talk a little bit about your annual seminar. I know you have a seminar coming up in November in Aberdeen. Can you tell us a little bit about what happens at the seminar and what that event is all about?
Diane: Yeah. It is a way for our members to be able to showcase what they do, perhaps with some case studies where they’ve been working with operators. On the first day we’re going to have some tutorials, half day tutorials, which people will be able to attend.
Then on the second day we’ll probably have 8 to 10 technical presentations given where people can talk about what they’re doing. People particularly like a sort of case study where there’s a learning point to, perhaps a technical difficulty during a job, something like that. If possible we have those.
Then we also have an exhibition that runs alongside the whole event.
Danny: Perhaps I’m a little bit biased being an Aberdeen local, but this seminar genuinely is one of my favorite days of every calendar year. I really enjoyed the seminar. It’s a chance to catch up with old familiar faces in the industry and new faces as well on my doorstep.
That’s one of the things that makes it good for me, right? It’s the perfect size of an event. I presented at the PPSA seminar back in 2017, and the audience was around 120 people, which is probably the perfect size I think.
I’ve presented at bigger conferences, but there’s multiple streams going on at the same time. You can have 400 people, or I had 12 people once. I think because the PPSA seminar is just a single track, you get the whole community of attendees going to the exhibition, having a coffee, networking, and then the whole community, again, goes into the same room and hears the same presentation.
As a presenter, I think it’s a great opportunity for a captive audience. Then the exhibition, because it’s that bit smaller, it does mean that you get to speak to every single person that’s there.
Russel: I think it’s interesting when you attend, in our industry, these events that are attended by a couple of 100 people-ish. Very different kinds of events. They tend to be a lot more technical and the conversations tend to be a lot deeper because you’re stepping in a single track. That’s interesting. It’s very interesting.
Diane: To me, one of the big things about the PPSA seminars, because it’s for our members and run by members, we treat everyone, as far as possible, equal. In the exhibition, everybody has exactly the same size space. We don’t have any sponsorships, so you don’t have any big size and that sort of thing.
Even a small person can go along for an exhibition space, or doing pounds, £130, to have an exhibition space there. It just means that someone who’s just starting out has just as much chance of being able to show off what they’re doing as someone who’s been in the industry for many, many, many years.
Russel: A side note, as an American, I’m just really glad that the UK is still using the pound.
It’s important that you use the king’s money.
Danny: This year, the seminar is going to be even better because we’re introducing a Scottish theme. Part of the feedback we got during last year’s seminar is that people have traveled to Aberdeen specifically for this and they quite happily take a bit more time if we can make it a bit longer, so we’ve added an extra night to the program.
We’re going to have a Scottish Ceilidh, so full of traditional Scottish dances, probably some nice scotch. We call it whiskey over here, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Russel: It’s Scotsman’s whiskey, is what it is.
Diane: It should be really fun.
Russel: For those that don’t know the history, that came to America with the Scotsman. That’s how we learned how to make American rye and American bourbon. We took the same technique and just use what we could grow over here.
Danny: You’re welcome.
Russel: Thank you very much. I’m in your debt.
Diane: It should be a fun event.
Russel: That’s awesome. I think that’s important in an event like this to build community and do some things beyond just the technical stuff. Scotland’s one of my bucket list places. I lived in the UK for two years and I never made it to Scotland.
Danny: We look forward to seeing you there in November, Russell. Will save you a spot.
Russel: Awesome. Appreciate that. One other string of conversations, I know, Danny, that you’ve been very involved in the YPPE, the Young Pipeliners, what is PPSA doing in that vein to help recruit, mentor, and train up the next generation of pipeliners?
Danny: I think quite a few things. The first one I can think of is that, back in 2019, alongside the seminar here in Aberdeen, we arranged for a pigging course. Here in Scotland, not far from Aberdeen, there used to be this great training loop for pigging and PPSA sponsored 16 young pipeline professionals to go down and learn about the basics of pigging.
These guys worked in the pipeline industry day to day but mostly behind a laptop. Not everyone gets to actually see the launch and receiving of a pig and all the intricacies associated with that. I think it’s always best when you can see something firsthand. I think you understand it so much more than if you see it on a laptop.
Russel: Opening up a pig trap is something that every pipeliner should do in their career at some point because if you’ve never done that, you don’t appreciate the significance of the event.
Russel: Likewise, everybody needs to be around a blowdown of a 1,500 psi pipe at least once. That is what, in the military, we used to call a significant emotional event. It’s training that goes into your body in a particularly unique way.
Danny: We’re going to replicate that same thing in Brazil this year. The Rio Pipeline Conference takes place in Brazil in August. Again, we’re sponsoring Young Pipeline Professionals visit to a pigging loop. That’s one of the main ways that we’re supporting.
Another would be just recently, in fact, at the PPM conference in Houston, we had a golf day. The funds raised from that, we donated all of those young pipeliner groups across the world.
They were recently able to use that money to fund a gathering at the Pipeline Technology Conference in Berlin. That was well attended by young pipeliners from all over the world. It’s a way that lets them break the ice and access the industry.
Russel: One of the things that I would say that all young pipeliners should realize is the friends you make today are the colleagues you’ll have 30 years from now. Those relationships, at least in my career, they’re more than just professional. They’re close personal friends.
I have close friends that I have worked with, that I have competed with, and every place in between. Ultimately, the assets remain the same and the people remain the same, and all we’re really doing is changing the nameplates on the gates.
Diane: Danny mentioned the golf tour, and it’s actually an annual event, so we’re going to be doing the same again next February, Monday the 13th February. We’re introducing the idea of mentoring whilst playing golf. This was an idea that Danny had. I can’t take the credit for it and I think it’s brilliant. We’re going to get companies to sponsor some golf teams.
We’re looking for mentors who perhaps like to play golf. I suppose it would help if they did. Then we’re going to match them up with YPP people and they can go out and get to know each other, as you were saying, to then start to build that relationship and that friendship, which could last for the rest of their life.
Russel: That’s awesome. Again, another bucket list item for me would be playing golf in the summer in Scotland. How long is your golf season there, six weeks?
Danny: We don’t mind playing in the rain.
Russel: That’s handy right there.
Diane: We’ll have a different color ball when it’s snowing.
Russel: Yeah, I played in the UK in the snow a couple of times. I found the greens quite easy to putt, and you can see the lime quite clearly when you did it. Anyways, what else would you like to tell pipeliners about PPSA before we wrap this conversation up?
Diane: My biggest takeaway would be for them to realize how easily they can source information about pigs all over the world.
When I go to exhibitions and talk to people about association, that’s the one thing which they say, “Wow, I wish I had known how easy it was. I wish I’d known that technical service existed,” because obviously, they’ve had to do a lot of ringing around and legwork to find people.
When they realize how easy it is, just one email and I can contact all the providers. They can ask for references or how much experience a company has, and that sort of thing. That would be my takeaway that they just remember we’re here and use our services.
Russel: Awesome. That’s great. Danny, anything from you for final remarks?
Danny: Danie summarized it really well. My message would be instead to other service companies. I’d say to them that I’ve spent my whole career working for companies that have been members of PPSA, and I’ve always seen a benefit for it. I would encourage you to get in touch and sign up if you’re not already a member.
Russel: Guys, I very much appreciate you taking the time to talk about PPSA. I’ve certainly learned a lot. I say all the time, I’m not an integrity management or IOI guy, but being in the pipeline business, I know enough about it to know what it is.
The fact that I now know who to call, that’s a helpful little detail right there, is what that is. Anyways, great to talk to you. Thanks so much for coming on.
Diane: Great to talk to you, too. Thanks for the opportunity.
Danny: Thanks very much, Russel.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of “The Pipeliners Podcast” and our conversation with Danny and Diane.
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Transcription by CastingWords