Meet The Team: Kim Chua
From New Zealand to the UK and now in Singapore, Kim Chua’s experience as a metallurgist has seen her become one of the leading corrosion and metal failure experts in the industry today.
As often is the case in science, experience is the bedrock of knowledge. Anyone working in the scientific and investigative realms rely on previous trials and successes to push themselves forward and refine their skills, intuition and wisdom.
For Kim Chua, Managing Metallurgist at Brookes Bell’s office in Singapore, her vast amount of experience across multiple continents in various commercial and technical companies has placed her as one of the leading experts in her field.
“It is often difficult to explain what a metallurgist does. What I sometimes tell people is that ‘I work in CSI but instead of working on human bodies, I focus on metals instead’. For the maritime and its related industries, the work of a metallurgist at Brookes Bell has become so important and rarely is it uninteresting,” she noted.
Kim graduated from the University of Auckland in New Zealand with a Masters of Engineering (Hons) in Chemical and Materials Engineering before starting as a corrosion engineer in New Zealand’s energy sector. She then boldly travelled to the other side of the world to become both a corrosion engineer and metallurgist at a couple of commercial companies in the United Kingdom, including those involved in aerospace and defence sectors, upstream and subsea oil and gas sectors, and a brief stint in Formula 1.
She then made her way to Asia in 2016 where she joined General Electric’s Water division as a Lead Engineer where she refined her expertise in corrosion and understanding leading analytical processes, particularly for metals involved in industrial water treatment systems. In May 2018, Kim joined Brookes Bell as a Metallurgist, moving into a Managing Metallurgist role in mid-2021.
“Joining Brookes Bell was a natural move for me. I have been able to utilise my skills, knowledge, experience and expertise in metallurgy and corrosion to play a significant role in some of the cases that we have to deal with. What really excites me is that our client base is so diverse and being involved in merchant vessels means we often have to visit new and exciting places. I am thrilled to be a part of the team here at Brookes Bell,” Kim said.
While the bulk of her work involves metallic components and understanding and investigating failures, such as corrosion, fractures and mechanical failures, Kim noted that the scope of work carries over across a number of industry sectors.
“The cases I have to investigate are so varied. This often means looking at metallic cargoes, such as steel coils or piping; offshore rig components, such as cranes and sea water cooling systems; and engines and propulsion systems. I have also dealt with punctures in overhead fuel tanks. I’ve had to investigate the smallest of pins in a shaft to an entire propeller system. This line of work is so varied and can be challenging at times but so rewarding.
“One of the more common cases I have been dealing with recently is an increase in damage to fuel injection pumps caused by bad bunker blends and supplies. Quite often, off-specification fuel is being burnt and this is causing severe damage to the components of the fuel pump system. These cases and the features involved are cropping up more and more in our lab,” Kim noted.
However, she noted that these types of incidents are perfect examples of Brookes Bell’s collaborative and resourceful nature for all types of investigations.
“During these incidents, I am able to work closely with fuel chemists and marine engineers from across Brookes Bell. As a Metallurgist, I can spot patterns of damage to fuel pumps and tie that in with the work and analysis being done by other experts in Brookes Bell. This type of collaboration is both incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. Collaboration is key to success when it comes to complex cases. Attempting to tackle everything on your own is risky and can lead to errors. By working together, we can leverage the multi-disciplinary expertise within Brookes Bell and deliver more effective solutions. The added benefit of this approach is that the answers we provide are more robust, making our work more productive overall,” she added.
Kim’s strong educational and industry background is also supported by her series of qualifications and professional memberships. She is a Chartered Engineer with the Engineering Council, a Member of the Institute of Metals, Minerals and Mining; a Member of NACE International (now known as AMPP); an Associate Member of the Institute of Chemical Engineers; and an Associate Member of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology.
For Kim, these are not only important for her own development but for those who come to Brookes Bell for help with their investigation.
“Having these memberships is crucial because it provides assurance to my clients because it shows that my experience has been vetted by my peers. It is my personal way of showcasing my experience to the industry. After all, you need a certain amount of experience to be accepted into these institutions, so I consider it a great honour that I am a part of them today,” she noted.
- Andrew Yarwood