Industry Standards in the Gulf Coast Region

A review of product codes, standards, and personnel certification programs related to welding inspection in this challenging geographical area.

AWS Publications | September 10, 2021 | Inspection
Welding Digest ►  Industry Standards in the Gulf Coast Region

A review of product codes, standards, and personnel certification programs related to welding inspection in this challenging geographical area.

As inspection professionals and American Welding Society (AWS) Certified Welding Inspectors (CWIs), we work in various industries that challenge us to continuously educate ourselves to be effective and valuable to our employers or clients. For those of us employed in the Gulf Coast region of the United States, this is particularly true. Each time we are assigned to a project, we must review all the relevant contracts and purchase orders to understand what codes and standards apply and the requirements for procedure development/qualification, welder qualification, inspection, and testing.

As an inspector, I have participated in a wide range of fabrication and construction projects requiring the application of codes, standards, and specifications — often numbering more than ten for an individual project. Because inspection involves virtually all product forms (i.e., vessels, structural steel, piping, and tanks) required for the various processes, the inspector mustn’t be just informed in the application of these governing documents but also have a certain level of expertise in how these apply to each situation or product.

Fig 1-Sep-03-2021-06-31-46-02-PM Aerial view of international oil tankers docked at a U.S. oil refinery off the Gulf of Mexico in Texas City, Tex., located just south of Houston. The Gulf of Mexico coastline is home to a large percentage of the nation’s refining and chemical industries, and these offer great opportunities for inspectors.


The complexity of these manufacturing systems presents intricate challenges to design and fabrication because of their extremes of pressure and temperature, aggressive chemical attacks on materials, and construction difficulties. The region’s geology and weather also present complex material and fabrication obstacles that test the abilities of the best inspectors. In addition, the Gulf Coast region continues to expand existing facilities constructed using older codes and build new facilities utilizing the latest code editions. For any inspector, it is not enough to have a working knowledge of a single code or even one edition of multiple codes. A top inspector will develop expertise in a number of products, welding, fabrication, and construction codes.

During the early development of the AWS CWI program, there was much discussion within the Q&C Committee concerning Part C, or the Code section, of the certification examination. We wondered at length if one code was adequate to qualify an inspector’s command of codes and standards as set down in the qualification requirements (B5.1 today) and what number of questions from any code was adequate to determine mastery.

The certification examination we see today resulted from compromises and periodic additions to the available code list. These changes were made over a period of years and in recognition of the complexity of welding inspection and the codes and standards required to be followed. The present certification program allowing and even encouraging multiple code tests to be reflected underscores the importance the committee places on the CWI's ability to master multiple codes.

Professional inspectors can never be complacent in their knowledge of codes and standards, as these are revised periodically and must be constantly reviewed to determine changes in procedure qualification methods, materials, test specimen details, welder qualification methodology, and other considerations that could cause errors by the inspector during fabrication or construction, or both.


Codes, Standards, and Personnel Qualification and Certification

This article aims to be a general guide, organized by issuing association, of the usual codes and standards used in typical inspection procedures in the Gulf Coast. It is meant to be an aid to inspection professionals and those interested in opportunities in this region; however, each project is unique and may require codes and standards not included in this list. Also, because many large corporate clients have written their own standards — many taking exceptions to code content — the inspector must pay particular attention to the requirements of the projects to which they are assigned and respond accordingly.

The following list of codes should not be considered comprehensive but rather representative of the complexity of the role of the CWI who has chosen refineries and chemical plants as their preferred area of employment. The absence of some codes (AWS D1.5, Bridge Welding Code, for instance) simply reflects the list of those most commonly applicable for the chemical, refining, pipeline, and energy exploration sectors.


American Welding Society (AWS)

Aside from providing structural codes used in chemical plants and refineries, AWS provides the personnel qualification and certification specifications by which welding inspectors the world over have become identified as: the AWS CWI.

Personnel Specifications

AWS QC1, Specification for AWS Certification of Welding Inspectors 

AWS B5.1, Specification for the Qualification of Welding Inspectors

The structures within which refineries, chemical plants, dock facilities, and loading/unloading areas are built comply with the steel codes provided by AWS.

Steel Codes

AWS D1.1, Structural Welding Code — Steel

AWS D1.3, Structural Welding Code — Sheet Steel

AWS D1.6, Structural Welding Code — Stainless Steel


ASTM International specifications and practices used by the American Galvanizers Association for galvanizing various structural components

Both steel structures and much of the piping used in the Gulf Coast region must be protected from both the highly corrosive process chemicals and the saltwater environment common to the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. While some systems and tanks are painted, galvanizing plays a prominent role in protecting structural components.

ASTM A123, Standard Specification for Zinc (Hot-Dip Galvanized) Coatings on Iron and Steel Products

ASTM A767, Standard Specification for Zinc-Coated (Galvanized) Steel Bars for Concrete Reinforcement

ASTM A384, Standard Practice for Safeguarding Against Warpage and Distortion During Hot-Dip Galvanizing of Steel Assemblies

ASTM A385, Standard Practice for Providing High-Quality Zinc Coatings (Hot-Dip)

ASTM A780, Standard Practice for Repair of Damaged and Uncoated Areas of Hot-Dip Galvanized Coatings

ASTM D6386, Standard Practice for Preparation of Zinc (Hot-Dip Galvanized) Coated Iron and Steel Product and Hardware Surfaces for Painting


American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC)

Within the process facilities, occupied structures serve as control rooms, motor control centers, warehouses, administration buildings, and fire safety/ response facilities. They are typically built in accordance with the requirements of AISC.

ANSI/AISC 360-10, Specification for Structural Steel Buildings, Chapter N, Quality Control and Quality Assurance. This chapter addresses minimum requirements for quality control, quality assurance, and nondestructive examination for structural steel systems and steel elements of composite members for buildings and other structures.

Commentary N5, Minimum Requirements for Inspection of Structural Steel Buildings, Section 4, Inspection of Welding. Observation of welding operations and visual inspection of in-process and completed welds shall be the primary method to confirm that the materials, procedures, and workmanship are in conformance with the construction documents.


American Society for Mechanical Engineering (ASME)

Many of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC) sections have applicability for process equipment, boilers, tanks, furnaces, and piping. This series represents the broadest applicability of codes within one technical society typically applied to a refinery or chemical plant project. These challenge welding inspectors to be at the top of their game during a project, as few have applicability as stand-alone codes but rather must be used in conjunction with one or more others. Pressure vessels, for instance, is a “product code” that contains the requirements for design, fabrication, and testing; however, the welding requirements for pressure vessels are contained in ASME BPVC Section IX — Welding, Brazing, and Fusing Qualifications.

Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC)

Section I — Rules for Construction of Power Boilers

Section II — Materials

Section III — Rules for Construction of Nuclear Facility Components

Section IV — Rules for Construction of Heating Boilers

Section V — Nondestructive Examination

Section VI — Recommended Rules for the Care and Operation of Heating Boilers

Section VII — Recommended Guidelines for the Care of Power Boilers

Section VIII — Rules for Construction of Pressure Vessels

Section IX — Welding, Brazing, and Fusing Qualifications

Section X — Fiber-Reinforced Plastic Pressure Vessels

Section XII — Rules for Construction and Continued Service of Transport Tanks

B31.1, Power Piping

B31.3, Process Piping


American Petroleum Institute (API)

API requirements are often cited in contracts involving refineries where storage tanks that feed the process and receive oil from offsite locations may need to conform to these codes.

API 1104, Welding of Pipelines and Related Facilities

API 650, Welded Steel Tanks for Oil Storage

API 2000, Venting Atmospheric and Low-Pressure Storage Tanks

Fig 3-2Offshore construction platform pipelines for oil and gas.


Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association (TEMA)

All chemical plants and refineries require heat exchangers of various configurations, capacities, and designs. These generally need to conform to the requirements of TEMA to be approved for use within the facility.

TEMA Standards 9th or 10th edition. The design and construction are usually based on TEMA Standards 9th or 10th edition for the design and fabrication of process heat exchangers.

TEMA supplements pressure vessel codes, such as ASME BPVC and BSI BS 5500, Unfired Fusion Welded Pressure Vessels.

TEMA standards set out constructional details, recommended tube sizes, allowable clearances, and terminology. They also provide a basis for contracts and tend to be followed rigidly even when not strictly necessary. Many users have their own additions to the standard, which suppliers must follow.


American Water Works Association (AWWA)

All facilities utilize water from one source or another (such as city supplied, local wells, and rivers), and at some point, this water will be stored until used. These storage units will likely fall under the codes and standards issued by the AWWA and contain specific inspection requirements during fabrication and construction as well as periodic re-inspections.

AWWA D103, Factory-Coated Bolted Steel Tanks for Water Storage

AWWA D100, Welded Carbon Steel Tanks for Water Storage


American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT)

The nondestructive examination (NDE) requirements found in contracts and specifications will very often refer to one or more of the ASNT NDE methods to be performed, as well as the qualification and certification of the NDE technicians conducting that testing. The CWI must know and understand how to identify properly certified NDE personnel as well as be capable of performing visual inspections at Level II for visual testing (VT). AWS and ASNT have entered into a reciprocity agreement whereby AWS CWI’s may apply for certification by ASNT as a Level II VT technician within the requirements of the ASNT Central Certification Program (ACCP). This is highly beneficial for both AWS and ASNT as it provides advantages for both professional inspection programs, CWI and VT.

ACCP Levels II and III, and ASNT NDT Levels II and III Certifications

Magnetic Particle Testing (MT)

Liquid Penetrant Testing (PT)

Radiographic Testing (RT)

Ultrasonic Testing (UT)

Visual Testing (VT)



Inspectors may find themselves faced with assignments requiring them to become proficient in a code or standard with little or no previous experience. Inspectors should not expect that they will be confined to a limited scope of roles and responsibilities, and they must prepare accordingly. While not explicitly contained within the list of roles and responsibilities of the CWI program (QC1), demonstrated competency in several construction areas and multiple codes and standards will prepare the individual to execute inspections other than those that are welding specific. Certifications beyond CWI — such as AGA, ASNT, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and AISC, for example — do not only prepare the CWI for a broader role within their quality organization but also prepare them for management or consultancy. This is not to say that an inspection professional wishing to focus on welding-specific areas is somehow restricted in their potential or less valued, only that they need not feel restricted to that area of expertise.


This article was written by Calvin E. Pepper for the American Welding Society.