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What does a Gas Plant Operator do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A gas plant operator oversees the production, storage, and transport of different types of gases. Most operators work for utility and oil companies, where they check gauges and maintain equipment as necessary. They monitor and control pipelines, compressors, and distribution tanks to keep gases at proper temperature and pressurization levels. The specific responsibilities of a gas plant operator vary between different industries and companies, but most professionals are required to obtain extensive training to ensure efficient production and preserve the safety of plant employees.

Operators are responsible for making sure that gas plant machinery is running properly and that pipelines maintain the proper levels, flow rates, temperature, and pressurization. They usually work in control rooms, where they can monitor gauges remotely via electronic signals and specialized computer programs. Professionals often perform detailed preventive maintenance jobs to keep equipment clean and working properly. Gauges and other pieces of machinery are frequently tested to ensure that they are accurate.

A gas plant operator relies on detailed troubleshooting guides and personal experience to diagnose and fix problems. If a pipe or piece of equipment malfunctions, the operator will normally turn off the system and proceed to make the appropriate repairs. Minor adjustments and repairs are frequently needed at most plants, requiring operators to tighten screws and replace worn gears and valves. Larger problems may require a gas plant operator to disassemble an entire tank or replace sections of damaged pipe along a pipeline.

In order to perform the job safely and effectively, a gas plant operator must have detailed knowledge of physics, mechanical processes, and different types of chemicals. He or she needs to be able to make quick decisions when a piece of equipment malfunctions to get it back in working order as soon as possible. Further, an operator must thoroughly understand the potential risks involved when working around volatile, flammable fluids.

Due to the dangerous nature of the job and the amount of responsibility involved, a person who wants to become a gas plant operator is usually required to complete technical training programs and pass extensive licensing exams. Many community colleges, universities, and technical schools offer certification courses in stationary engineering and hazardous materials management. Formal, hands-on training is provided through apprenticeships, where new workers assist experienced operators in the field for a period of up to one year. Most countries and states require new gas plant operators to pass licensing exams that test their knowledge of safety and legal issues, terminology, and basic procedures.

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Discussion Comments

By anon282457 — On Jul 29, 2012

I've been a gas plant operator for only three years. I came from a cryogenics plant (gas plant) that was shutting down, and before that worked in an oil refinery (after five years at an oil refinery and was making $30.30 an hour).

I started at $28 at a natural gas treating plant and am now up to $30. My co worker made $125,000-plus last year. I will be around in the mid 90's, maybe close to 100 or more. Overtime is there. It's only July 2012 and I have 428 hours of overtime so far. I've been in plant operations for 10 years and still say that it is a good job. We even have TV and movies at night.

By seag47 — On Dec 28, 2011

My uncle was a gas plant operator, and his son aspired to be like him one day. He had no idea that an ear infection he had as a teenager would keep him from his dream.

Because of the infection, he lost hearing in his right ear. Unfortunately, a major requirement for gas plant operators is acute hearing. They have to be able to detect telltale sounds of trouble in equipment and pipelines.

My cousin didn’t know this until he talked to an adviser at his university. The adviser informed him that it would be difficult for him to get hired, even if he could pass the exams.

By OeKc05 — On Dec 27, 2011

It must take a special kind of person to be a gas plant operator. Personally, I wouldn’t want to risk my life to do my job. Some people are better equipped to handle intense situations, though.

If someone told me there was a gas leak nearby, I would go into panic mode. A gas plant operator has to be able to maintain his composure and think quickly yet logically. The lives of nearby residents could be in his hands.

I once saw a man working on a gas line that had a leak in it. I was amazed at how calm and collected he seemed. I was ready to bolt once I heard about the leak, yet here was this man, right out there at its source.

By shell4life — On Dec 27, 2011

@wavy58 - You’re not kidding about the salary! My husband is a gas plant operator, and he makes $30 an hour! I only make about $12 an hour at my job, so this is amazing to me.

I know that his job is a dangerous one, and I’m sure that is part of the reason why the pay is so good. Another reason is that not many people have the knowledge that he has, and the ones who possess it are in high demand.

When he has to work overtime, which happens a lot, he makes $45 an hour. Needless to say, we were able to afford a really nice vacation last summer. Though he does have to travel quite a bit and be gone overnight, the pay is worth it.

By wavy58 — On Dec 26, 2011

My brother-in-law is a gas plant operator, and he has to travel a lot for work. The company that employs him has pipeline all over the state, so anytime there is an issue, he will likely be the one sent to fix it.

He spent a few years just laying pipeline for a different company. This gave him good experience and made him desirable to his current employer.

The two companies fought over him. His old job made an offer, and the new company made a counteroffer. He went with the new job, though, because he wanted the promotion. He now enjoys his work as a gas plant operator, and the salary is awesome, as well.

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