Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to ask Google a few questions that readers recently posed to Chemical Processing’s Ask The Experts forum. “OK, Google — Is there any guideline available for cleaning a sulfuric acid tank?” Google came back with a link to our Ask The Experts forum that answered that exact question.
I decided to get a little more granular. “OK, Google — Are PTFE- and PVDF-lined pipe and fittings suitable for a 30% sodium methylate solution between 10°C and 40°C?” Google gave me a bunch of sites where I could probably find a suitable answer if I researched it enough. However, I’m assuming the answer would be very general — nothing as targeted as the one our corrosion expert, Greg Borgard, engineering consultant, Eli Lilly and Company, gave our reader.
Borgard is one of 29 experts we have who field questions from our audience. They are leading authorities in everything from combustion, compressors and corrosion to simulation, solids processing and steam and thermal systems.
“Often in these sorts of forums, an exact and precise answer is not possible, but that doesn’t mean helpful information can’t be passed along,” says Borgard. For his forum on corrosion, he notes the answers are rarely yes or no — they involve different levels of risk and include several considerations that are very context specific. “As best as I can, I try to include items to think about in my answers that the questioner might not have had in mind when they asked the question.”
Our Ask The Experts forum enables you to flip through all the questions and answers in each category by clicking on the “See questions in this category” button. If you feel that you can add to the conversation, you can post your own comment. And if you have a question, you can click on the “Pose a question” button to see if our experts can help you address your technical issues.
According to Borgard, some questions are beyond the scope of what he already knows and so involve research. “These are fun ones because we both learn something new,” he says. “More often questions don’t have enough context to provide me a good basis for giving an answer. So, when asking a question, don’t be afraid to give details, even if you think the details might not be relevant. For corrosion and material compatibility, the answer is often “it depends” and so the context matters very much. A suitable material of construction for a waste treatment facility might not be suitable for a pharmaceutical plant.”
What about experts seeking advice? “No one person has a corner on knowledge, and it is a wise person who benefits from both the successes and failures of others,” notes Borgard. As for the best advice he’s been given, it’s not advice but a question: How do you know what you know?
“Many times in my career, problems have been posed to me that overstate what is known based on assumptions. An easy example illustrates this in that I was once told a valve in a line was open but there was no flow. In reality, the control system registered the valve being open, but in the field it was actually still closed. I have found that a lot of time and energy has been saved by taking the time at the beginning of any event to verify the facts of the case before trying to engineer a solution. Look at the equipment in the field, talk to the person who was there when it happened, look at the original data, and even ask an expert.”
Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing's senior digital editor. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.