Interview with Leo Caseres, Ph.D. and Senior Research Engineer at Southwest Research Institute

Earlier this month, we hosted a live webinar with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) about the latest advancements in corrosion under insulation (CUI) research (click here to watch a recording of the webinar).

After the webinar, we sat down for a one-on-one interview with our co-host from SwRI, Leo Caseres, to get his insights on the leading issues we face pertaining to CUI and what he sees for the future of CUI research.

Can you give us a brief background of your experience?
I am a senior research engineer in the Mechanical Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®). I received my Bachelor in Chemical Engineering from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and my Masters and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of South Florida (Tampa). Prior to joining SwRI, I was a research assistant with the Corrosion Engineering Laboratory at the University of South Florida. I have more than 20 years of expertise in controlling, monitoring, and preventing corrosion in reinforcing steel in marine substructures and metallic components exposed to soils, waters, and under insulation.

At SwRI, I have been actively involved in coating testing for a variety of applications, including electrochemical testing for CUI. In fact, the CUI approach we developed with a major oil refining company is being adopted by NACE as the recommended method for testing corrosion under insulation. (You can learn more about this research in our latest webinar, CUI Research: Critical Components and Findings). I have also published more than 60 technical papers and presented numerous research topics in the corrosion field at international conferences. I am also a member of the NACE International.

What shortcomings have you seen in corrosion research that you feel should be rectified?
Corrosion has an impact on safety, reliability, and the economy over a broad range of technological applications – from national defense and infrastructure to health and the welfare of populations. The major shortcoming in corrosion research stems from the lack of an interdisciplinary point of view to treat corrosion in a more holistic fashion. In addition, we know that corrosion occurs across industries, and yet in numerous cases, there is overlapping research that fails to recognize that similar conditions can affect multiple industries. In recent years, there has been a slow-down in corrosion research, resulting from the global economic downturn. Without effective, continuous, and cutting-edge corrosion research, safety and reliability in plant operations may be compromised.

What direction do you see corrosion research heading in the future?
Better materials with high corrosion resistant capability, better corrosion protection technologies (e.g., sustainable corrosion inhibitors, coatings, etc.), increased corrosion awareness by detection of the early stages of corrosion, and better organized and executed plans for combating corrosion could have dramatic improvements to component safety, reliability, and the economy.

How does SwRI go about designing research methods to ensure they accurately capture the data?
An important aspect of corrosion research is to recognize and design your research methods to reflect the complicated influence of environmental factors on corrosion and metallurgical parameters. The sensitivity of corrosion behavior to environmental factors has led to varied degrees and forms of metal damage under different service conditions. To complicate the issue even further, corrosion is a time-sensitive process. Hence, the varying environmental parameters compounded with the complicated influence of environmental factors make theoretical prediction of corrosion extremely difficult.   

At SwRI, the focus is to develop cutting-edge technology to mimic, model, monitor, and prognosticate corrosion in a wide verity of applications. The developed approach has to be able to replicate field conditions so that better corrosion mitigation techniques can be employed.

SwRI is driving corrosion research forward, how can other companies/people get involved in future testing?
SwRI is an independent and impartial nonprofit organization that is  the vanguard of corrosion modeling, mitigation, and monitoring for numerous industry types, including government and industry clients. Our multidisciplinary nature allows us to rapidly assemble diverse teams to tackle problems from multiple directions. We push the boundaries of science and technology to develop innovative solutions that advance the state-of-the-art and improve human health and safety. As part of a long-held tradition, patent rights arising from sponsored research are often assigned to the client; SwRI generally retains the right to Institute-sponsored research. We strive to ensure our products and services conform to the highest quality standards and have achieved multiple quality accreditations and certifications.

What results do you expect to find as your test efforts move forward?
As mentioned earlier, the major advantage of the test effort to monitor and test for corrosion under insulation is that the test results are comparable to those encountered cases in the field; in short, the test method was fully validated with field data. Further improvement of the test method relates to shortening the exposure time without changing the corrosion degradation modes.

Are there any cutting edge opportunities that you’re excited about that you can share with us?
There are an enormous number of exciting technologies that are being developed at SwRI through commercial and government funding programs. For more information, please visit

Explain a little bit about the JIP program.
CUI represents a severe threat to the on-stream reliability of many of today’s refining, chemical, power generating, industrial, onshore and offshore installations. The objective of this program is to determine the durability of various coating types applicable to CUI, using the developed, cost-effective test method with the purpose of obtaining an accurate coating performance evaluation and ranking under various insulation materials. This program will also provide high quality data to support the development of new coatings pertaining to mitigation of CUI. Additionally, this program will help make/revise recommendations for coating selection for CUI based on durability, define acceptance criteria and safe integrity operating window or risk-based assessment for components that are exposed to aggressive environments. Effectively, the outcome of the JIP can be used to identify the appropriate coating inspection frequency in field applications.

Have you seen anyone take the data from your research and use it to improve and evolve their products?The data collected for each individual client is used to improve the corrosion knowledge and to find ways to mitigate corrosion by tweaking their product design or changing the material selection. These process modifications are usually translated to millions of dollars in savings in corrosion maintenance and repairs.

You can watch the full, recorded version of the JM/SwRI webinar, CUI Research: The Critical Components and Findings, in our Exclusive Content Portal. This is where you’ll also find a variety of helpful tools and information pertaining to the industrial industry, including recorded webinars, videos, and white papers. If you have any questions about the webinar, or the additional content in our Exclusive Content Portal please feel free to contact us directly; we can put you in contact with Leo or a Johns Manville technical expert who can answer your questions: 1-800-866-3234.