How to become a Process Plant Operator (Oil and Gas)

Process plant operators in the oil and gas industry control, monitor and maintain the plant machinery and equipment to produce, refine and pump chemicals, oil, gas and petroleum.

Personal requirements of a Process Plant Operator (Oil and Gas)

  • Mechanical aptitude
  • Able to work as part of a team
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Able to cope with the physical demands of the job
  • Safety-conscious
  • Good mathematical skills
  • Technical, problem-solving and analytical skills
  • An aptitude for working with computers and learning and using new technologies
  • Good hand–eye coordination

Education & Training for a Process Plant Operator (Oil and Gas)

To become a process plant operator you usually have to complete a traineeship in Process Plant Operations or Process Plant Technology. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 12. For more details, see Section 2. Ask your career adviser about the possibility of starting some of this training in school.

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Duties & Tasks of a Process Plant Operator (Oil and Gas)

Process plant operators in the oil and gas industry may perform the following tasks:

  • operate pumping equipment to transfer oil and gas from wellheads to refineries, within refineries or to storage facilities
  • control the flow of oil and gas through pipelines
  • operate and control equipment to process, manufacture or blend refined oil products, gas and additives into petroleum and gas products, such as LPG, fuels and lubricants
  • set controls through local and computer controlled systems, and observe gauges and instruments on equipment
  • prepare equipment to enable access for maintenance crews
  • collect, process and analyse samples and record data
  • monitor equipment performance for malfunctions, test well pipes for leaks and fractures and request maintenance activities when required.

Working conditions for a Process Plant Operator (Oil and Gas)

Most refineries and processing plants use sophisticated computers to control the equipment and processes. Knowledge of chemical and mechanical processes and equipment performance is very important in order to safely optimise production quantity and quality. Process plant operators usually work in remote locations, possibly on a fly-in, fly-out basis, usually flying from a base location to the worksite, where they work for a number of weeks and then return to the base location. Shiftwork may be required. Process plant operators work in physically challenging environments, with heavy machinery and potentially hazardous chemicals. Strict safety procedures and regulations must be followed to minimise the risk. There is zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol at these worksites and workers may be required to submit to regular testing.

Employment Opportunities for a Process Plant Operator (Oil and Gas)

Process plant operators are employed in onshore and offshore oil and gas production and processing plants, as well as in oil refineries, chemical plants and oil storage facilities (terminals). Competition for available positions is very strong. Employers generally prefer applicants with existing trade qualifications or experience in related areas, especially in the electrical, instrumentation and mechanical fields. See the separate profiles under Related Jobs for further information. The increase in global energy demands for petroleum and gas has led to the expansion of activity in this area, with growth in skilled employment in conventional and unconventional gas fields.

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