Coatings Connect

An Interview with Norman Petticrew: Talking Soluble Salts

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In addition to being a Regional Sales Manager, Norman is a long-standing member of SSPC and a founding member and past Chairperson (2014-2015) of the SSPC Gulf Coast Chapter.

With the popularity of “Episode032 - Soluble Salts”, I wanted to expand on the podcast
discussion and feature Norman again on the subject of soluble salts with my “Five Questions Interview Series”.

To be clear, the following is my interview with Norman Petticrew on the subject of soluble salts and in no way an endorsement of any particular product or brand.

Jim: Who is Norman Petticrew?

Norman: “I have worked in the protective coatings industry, mostly focused on surface preparation since 1968. During my time in the industry, I have gained extensive hands-on experience in surface preparation, industrial coatings application, sales, inspection, specifications writing, teaching, and management roles.”

“In over fifty years of working in the protective coatings industry I have hands-on experience with field structures within the following industries: Marine, Oil/Gas Exploration, Refineries, Chemical Plants, Storage Tanks, Bridges, Railcar, and Salt Mines.”

Jim: What is the impact of soluble salts on protective coatings?

Norman: “Well first the word “impact” has to be heightened exponentially as soluble salt contamination under protective coating systems is extremely detrimental to the performance and life expectancy of coating systems, whether the coating system is in atmospheric or immersion service. If the substrate is properly tested and treated for soluble salts removal during the surface preparation stages, any coating system can achieve the full life cycle on performance, as designed by protective coatings manufactures and asset owners.”

Jim: What are some of the sources of soluble salts contamination?

Norman: “There are hundreds of types of salts on the Earth, however there are three main ionic salts that cause significant harm to protective coating systems, they are:
1. Chlorides
     a. Ocean Water
     b. Welding Flux (Sodium & Magnesium Chlorides)
     c. Deicing Salts
     d. Human Perspiration (Sweating)
2. Sulfates
     a. Burning Sulphur Containing Coal (Power Generation Plants)
     b. Coal & Liquid Hydrogen Fuels Containing Sulphur
3. Nitrates
     a. Fertilizer Plants
     b. Vehicular Emissions
These three types of soluble salts can easily be determined as a threat on the surface through proper testing and can easily be removed in one simple acidic solution treatment process prior to application of the coating system.”

Jim: How do you test for soluble salts and what additional steps should be taken during surface preparation, prior to coating?

Norman: “Although there are several types of testing procedures in the market today, our particular testing kits are ion specific and the most accurate in the industry.

The pH chart seen below shows that anything with a pH of below 7 is acidic, and anything with a pH above 7 is alkaline. There are several publications mentioned in Item #5 that prove that soluble salts can only be removed by acidic solution treatment. If no salts are present, alkaline products are excellent for holding the abrasive blast for extended periods of time before the coating application, sometimes up to 72 hours or more.

The trick is to know which product meets the requirements listed above. The best way to know this is to review the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) of the product that you intend to use and check it’s pH content. If the product has an alkaline base, it cannot remove soluble salts and it will only mask over salts which will cause coating systems to fail within two years or less, especially in previously pitted areas and at weld seams.”

Jim: SSPC has two key industry guides (SSPC-Guide 15, SSPC-Guide 24) on soluble salts, in your opinion, is there a need for additional global standards on soluble salts?

Norman: “Along with the SSPC-Guide 15 and SSPC-Guide 24, there are other standards and/or technical papers that cover in more detail what I was previously mentioned. Also available are ISO 8502-2, API 652, ASTM 5367-16, and NACE 6G186. Currently SSPC, ISO and NACE are working on a joint standard in which all parties will agree on the minimum and maximum allowable limits of chlorides, sulfates, and nitrates for the protective coatings industry, hopefully this joint global standard will be completed and published soon.”

I’d like to say thanks to Norman for taking time and for participating with my “Five Questions”

Thank you for reading this interview, please stay tuned for more interviews of key professionals from the global protective coatings industry. If you know a key professional that needs to be a feature of this interview series, please contact me at


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