In accordance with Section 15 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the “Academy shall make its best efforts to ensure that no individual appointed to serve on [a] committee has a conflict of interest that is relevant to the functions to be performed, unless such conflict is promptly and publicly disclosed and the Academy determines that the conflict is unavoidable.” A conflict of interest refers to an interest, ordinarily financial, of an individual that could be directly affected by the work of the committee. As specified in the Academy’s policy and procedures (http://www.nationalacademies.org/coi/index.html), an objective determination is made for each provisionally appointed committee member whether or not a conflict of interest exists given the facts of the individual’s financial and other interests and the task being undertaken by the committee. A determination of a conflict of interest for an individual is not an assessment of that individual’s actual behavior or character or ability to act objectively despite the conflicting interest.
We have concluded that for this committee to accomplish the tasks for which it was established its membership must include among others, at least one person who possesses current industry experience and expertise in the areas of forensic analysis of corrosion and corrosion control for metal alloys in the extreme subsea environments encountered by the fasteners that are the focus of this study.
To meet the need for this expertise and experience, Dr. Neil Thompson is proposed for appointment to the committee even though we have concluded that he has a conflict of interest because he is an employee of a company with financial interests in the oil and gas industry.
Dr. Thompson is senior vice president of Det Norske Veritas (USA) (DNV) and head of the Pipeline Services Department, including the Materials and Corrosion Technology Center, with over 30 years of experience in corrosion and materials research and forensic analysis. He directs and oversees forensic investigations in a variety of business segments, including pipelines, oil and gas (both onshore and offshore), and petrochemical/chemical processing. For example, Dr. Thompson was the project manager for the forensic investigation of the blowout preventer recovered from the Deep Water Horizon drilling rig failure (2010 Gulf oil spill) for the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Joint Investigation Team (JIT). He has directed over thirty major research projects and numerous field studies and testing projects examining various aspects of corrosion science, corrosion monitoring, and cathodic protection. Dr. Thompson also has considerable experience in managing research and testing on Strength Nickel Based Alloy Fasteners. Research under his management includes characterizing the resistance of key nickel based alloys to hydrogen embrittlement as a function of metallurgical variables, (ii) evaluating the performance of alternate materials that may be considered for subsea fastener applications and (iii) developing guidelines on use of PH Ni-Based alloys for fasteners in seawater environment and (iv) evaluating fasteners for sensitivity to Hydrogen Induced Stress Cracking (HISC). We believe that Dr. Thompson can serve effectively as a member of the committee and that the committee can produce an objective report, taking into account the composition of the committee, the work to be performed, and the procedures to be followed in completing the work.
After an extensive search, we have been unable to find another individual with the equivalent experience and expertise in forensic analysis of corrosion and corrosion control for metal alloys in extreme subsea environments who does not have a similar conflict of interest. Therefore, we have concluded that this potential conflict is unavoidable.