Central control and process operators, petroleum, gas and chemical processing (NOC 9232)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Petroleum, gas and chemical process operators monitor and operate petroleum, petrochemical and chemical plants and monitor, adjust and maintain processing units and equipment in these plants. People in these occupations:

  • work for petroleum and natural gas processing, pipeline and petrochemical companies, and industrial, agricultural and specialty chemical and pharmaceutical companies
  • should be comfortable working with computers
  • should have an interest in working with complex machines and systems, be mechanically inclined and have good problem-solving skills
  • pay attention to safety and have the ability to approach tasks with precision
  • should have mathematical abilities, be decisive and be able to communicate effectively with others
  • should be comfortable working in all types of weather conditions and in remote areas for long periods of time
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Petroleum, gas and chemical process operators perform some or all of the following duties:

  • operate electronic or computerized control panel from a central control room to monitor and optimize physical and chemical processes for several processing units
  • control process start-up, shut-down and troubleshooting
  • monitor outside process equipment
  • adjust equipment, valves, pumps and controls
  • authorize or co-sign maintenance work orders
  • shut down, isolate and prepare process units or production equipment for maintenance
  • sample products, perform tests, record data, carry out statistical process control on process operations, and write production logs
  • develop operator procedures for normal operation, start-up or shut-down of units
  • participate in safety audits and programs and provide emergency response when required
  • make sure safety and environmental regulations are followed
  • rotate between different processing units during shift cycles
  • work in a team with shared supervisory responsibilities and participate in training other workers
  • have cross-training in a skilled trade and work in the trade during shift cycles
  • identify hazards and their potential consequences and inform fellow workers, employers and the general public

Work environment

Petroleum, gas and chemical process operators typically work 40 hours or more per week.  Some overtime may also be required. Some workplaces operate in shifts, and may require operators to work evenings or weekends.

Workers generally work for larger organizations. Work often takes place indoors in central control rooms or with processing equipment on the floor of manufacturing plants, which may be noisy, dirty or dusty. However, a significant amount of work takes place outdoors in the field and may require extended stays in remote camps or working alone in isolated areas.

Although there is a risk of exposure to toxic, flammable or explosive chemicals and gases, this hazard is reduced by following safety procedures. Recent advancements in safety-related detection systems and a continued priority placed on making sure employees are properly trained have made the work environment much safer than in the past.

Insights from industry

Improvements in process automation have reduced the number of workers required to complete the same volume of work. These technological advancements will limit job growth to some degree.

The oil and gas industry in B.C. responds quickly to changing oil and natural gas price levels, with drilling activities that are closely related to world price levels.

Provincial and federal governments are also considering regulatory changes that would allow the exploration and development of the province's offshore oil and gas reserves, if it can be done in an environmentally safe and scientifically sound manner. If these reserves go into production, the demand for petroleum, gas and chemical process operators will increase. However, the soonest that this would occur is in 5–10 years.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

With experience and extensive company training, workers may move laterally within a company or progress to supervisory or managerial positions.

Advancement to the position of chief operator is also possible, but requires experience as a petroleum or chemical process operator in all the operating units controlled by the central control room.

Mobility to other petroleum or chemical processing plants is possible, but may be limited by the usual practice of training and promoting workers from within the establishment.

Additional resources