Energy and Chemical Plant Operator Kaiwhakahaere Rawa Pūngao, Rawa Matū

Energy and chemical plant operators monitor, control and maintain machinery and equipment at industrial sites such as power stations.

Energy and chemical plant operators may do some or all of the following:

  • run processes that produce power, fuel or processed chemical products
  • check, adjust and maintain plant equipment and report faults or problems
  • follow standard operating procedures and health and safety guidelines
  • interpret digital and analogue displays on equipment to keep detailed records of plant operations 
  • take samples of products or wastes for laboratory testing.

Panel Operator

To become a panel operator you may need to have, or be working towards a New Zealand Certificate in Energy and Chemical Plant Control Room Operations (Level 5). 

Physical Requirements

Energy and chemical plant operators need to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong as they lift materials and operate heavy equipment.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for energy and chemical plant operators includes:

  • trades work
  • work involving technical instructions
  • factory or manufacturing plant work.

Personal Qualities

Energy and chemical plant operators need to be:

  • efficient
  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • able to follow instructions
  • safety-conscious 
  • able to identify and solve problems.

Skills

Energy and chemical plant operators need to have:

  • ability to interpret digital and analogue displays to understand how equipment is functioning
  • an understanding of how machines work and how to operate them
  • an understanding of safety regulations and processes.

Conditions

Energy and chemical plant operators:

  • usually do shift work, including evenings, nights and weekends
  • may work indoors at plants and factories, or outdoors at gas plants, oil rigs and renewable energy plants 
  • work in most weather conditions and in noisy, hot, smelly or hazardous conditions.

Subject Recommendations

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become an energy and chemical plant operator. However, maths, physics, chemistry and digital technologies/computing may be useful.

Energy and Chemical Plant Operators can earn around $70K-$80K per year.

Pay for energy and chemical plant operators varies depending on experience, responsibilities and employer.

  • New energy and chemical plant operators usually start on $70,000 to $80,000 a year.
  • Those with five or more years' experience usually earn $80,000 to $110,000.
  • Energy and chemical plant operators working in the oil and gas industry can earn up to $180,000.

Sources: EnergySkills NZ, 2020; and careers.govt.nz research, 2020.

With experience and on-the-job training, energy and chemical plant operators may progress to work:

  • on different kinds of processes
  • as supervisors or managers.

With further training, they may also specialise in the role of:

Panel Operator
Panel operators control a plant's production centrally by interpreting data from banks of screens in a control room, and communicating with supervisors and other operators.

Years Of Training

There are no specific requirements to become an energy and chemical plant operator. However, some positions may require you to have, or be working towards a New Zealand Certificate in Energy and Chemical Operations (Level 3), or one of several micro-credentials. 

Energy and chemical plant operators usually learn skills on the job and employers may help them to gain a qualification.

Primary ITO oversees energy and chemical operations qualifications.

Energy and Chemical Plant Operator

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