Skills Electrical Station Operator - Electrical Power Systems near Longueuil (QC)

Find out what skills you typically need to work as an electrical station operator - electrical power systems in Canada. These skills are applicable to all Power engineers and power systems operators (NOC 9241).

Expertise

People working in this occupation usually apply the following skill set.

  • Clean and lubricate machinery and equipment
  • Analyze and record instrument readings and equipment malfunction
  • Operate equipment in hydro, thermal and nuclear power plants
  • Regulate and co-ordinate transmission loads, frequency and line voltage
  • Write plant or building operation reports
  • Assist in locating and isolating system problems
  • Issue work and test permits to electrical and mechanical maintenance personnel
  • Regulate water levels
  • Start up and shut down power plant equipment
  • Assist in the development of operation, maintenance and safety procedures
  • Operate automated or computerized control systems
  • Perform routine equipment maintenance
  • Troubleshoot, perform corrective action or minor repairs
  • Assist during routine systems testing
  • Monitor and inspect plant equipment and systems to detect equipment malfunctioning and to ensure plant systems are operating normally
  • Maintain daily log of operation, maintenance and safety activities

Essential skills

See how the 9 essential skills apply to this occupation.

Reading
  • Read safety, handling and usage instructions on the labels of chemical products to ensure they are following proper procedures. (1)
  • Read explanations and descriptions of equipment malfunctions on maintenance and repair request forms. (1)
  • Skim and read memos and notices from management or unions to stay abreast of relevant developments and activities. For example, they may read memos about the running of power tests, the introduction of new products, operational changes, or notices about contract negotiations. (2)
  • Read entries in staff log books about events during previous shifts to be able to plan tasks in the current shift, for example to know which equipment and gauges need to be monitored closely, adjusted or repaired. Log entries are usually written in brief phrases but may consist of multiple paragraphs of text when describing unusual events or complex problems. (2)
  • Read e-mail messages from supervisors and co-workers about plant problems or from suppliers about equipment orders. For example, a stationary engineer may read an e-mail message explaining that a control malfunction has caused the plant and office domestic water temperature to rise so that it now poses a danger of scalding. (2)
  • Read company policies such as policies regarding the calling in of contract workers after hours or guidelines stipulating what is required to be entered in daily log books. (2)
  • May read articles in trade magazines such as Plant Engineering to learn about the latest technology. (3)
  • Refer to technical manuals to troubleshoot equipment problems and to review operating procedures. For example, a stationary engineer may read sections in a Generator Operations Manual to learn complex procedures for synchronizing the plant's turbo generator with external electrical power. Understanding and applying the information in the manual requires relating the text to accompanying circuit schematics. (4)
Document use
  • Scan labels on plant equipment, chemical supplies and safety gear. For example, a stationary engineer may scan the name plate on an oil pump for its identification and serial number, look at the WHMIS labels on water treatment and refrigeration chemicals to identify the hazard levels, or check the label on a Scott air pack to confirm which button to press to activate it. (1)
  • Take temperature, pressure and chemical concentration readings from a variety of analog and digital instrument displays. (1)
  • Look up operational specifications in technical data tables. For example, a stationary engineer working for a garbage incineration plant may look up the temperature and pressure specifications for steam tables to assess boiler performance. A stationary engineer in a hospital heating plant may check tables of values for air changes, relative pressures, temperature and humidity to know the recommended values for different rooms in the hospital complex. (2)
  • Complete forms to request equipment repairs by entering identification data and brief descriptions of the malfunctions experienced. They may also refer to repair code tables to enter the correct code for the type of damage and repair involved. (2)
  • Complete daily log sheets to record equipment readings and plant performance. Some log sheets may involve entering over forty different readings for parameters such as boiler firing levels, water levels, total plant output, fuel consumption, and emissions rates. (2)
  • Interpret line graphs to monitor equipment and production levels and trends. For example, a stationary engineer in a dairy power plant monitors line graphs displaying refrigerant temperatures at different plant locations to ensure that stored milk neither becomes so warm that it spoils nor freezes. (2)
  • May complete annual statistical reports for government agencies such as Statistics Canada that report the amounts of fuel used, steam generated or power produced. (2)
  • Use procedural checklists to perform maintenance, shutdown and start-up tasks. For example, a shift engineer in a pulp mill refers to a seven-page Steam Plant Turbo-Generator Start-up Check List to perform and check off over one hundred start-up steps. (3)
  • Consult plant drawings and system schematics to troubleshoot problems and check services to facilities served by the plant. For example, a stationary engineer in a university's power plant views schematics of the heating and ventilation system in each building on campus to check that desired temperatures are maintained and to ensure appropriate valves are open and unobstructed. (3)
  • Read assembly drawings to learn how to install and maintain new equipment such as pumps and generators. They consult drawings to find the proper orientation of equipment parts, the sequence in which they are assembled, and technical measurements such as the clearances between shafts and couplings. (3)
  • Interpret information from numerous types of documents to maintain specified operating levels and anticipate and correct potential problems. They monitor numerous schematic diagrams and graphs displayed by computerized plant control systems that represent the operation of boilers, fuel feed systems, turbine generation systems, and pollution control systems. They synthesize information displayed on computer with data from daily and hourly logs and with physical observation of equipment, to determine adjustments that maximize plant efficiency, meet output targets, observe environmental protection regulations, and prevent problems such as shutdowns, overflows or explosions. (4)
Writing
  • Write brief entries in employee log books to inform staff on subsequent shifts of routine tasks completed or actions taken. (1)
  • Draft brief e-mail messages to co-workers, supervisors or suppliers to coordinate schedules, to request information about equipment parts or to order supplies. (1)
  • Write explanations and descriptions of equipment malfunctions on maintenance request forms. (2)
  • Write longer entries in plant operating logbooks to describe noteworthy events such as power failures. Some logbook entries may be up to several paragraphs long, depending on the complexity of the problem. For example, a stationary engineer may write a log entry which alerts other staff to a spike in glycol temperature and pressure, explains why the spike occurred, describes what actions were taken to correct the problem and lists what else needs to be done. (2)
  • Write e-mail messages to supervisors to describe processing problems and to suggest corrective actions. For example, a stationary engineer writes an e-mail message to tell the maintenance supervisor that the resins for de-mineralizing water are exhausted and need to be regenerated or the water going into boilers will cause corrosion and plugged lines. The writing is often intended to persuade management to spend the money to correct the problem. (3)
  • Write descriptions of incidents in incident reports. A typical incident report on a chemical spill or leak may contain one to several paragraphs of text, giving details about how much chemical was leaked, what measures were taken and whether anyone suffered injury. Incident reports may be used in courts of law and therefore must include appropriate and accurate detail. (3)
  • May draft longer procedural documents on the operation of particular plant equipment. For example, a pulp mill stationary engineer may write a procedure manual for the operation of the plant's black liquor fuel concentrator. The writing must present technical instructions concisely and clearly. (3)
NumeracyMoney Math
  • May purchase parts and supplies for their plants and submit receipts for reimbursement. (1)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • Summarize monthly utility purchases to ensure they don't exceed budgeted amounts. (1)
  • May organize purchase of power from external hydro suppliers by comparing the cost of buying electrical power during different time periods. They try to schedule the purchases to take advantage of lower rates at certain times of day. Energy costs can vary from fifty to a thousand dollars an hour depending on demand. (2)
  • May develop repair or preventive maintenance schedules, taking into consideration the time needed to shut down, repair and restart equipment. They also consider the effect on facilities served by the equipment being shut down For example, a stationary engineer in a hospital may have to time heating and ventilation maintenance tasks around the schedules of critical facilities such as the hospital operating theatre. (2)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • Set levels on plant equipment gauges according to operating specifications. (1)
  • Measure volumes of water and reagents to conduct water treatment tests. They may calculate multiples of the results if the amounts tested are very small. (2)
  • Calculate temperature and pressure relationships. For example, they calculate how many degrees steam is above condensing temperature at given pressures. This may involve subtracting negative and positive numbers. (2)
  • Calculate the volumes of substances contained in partially filled vessels. For example, a stationary engineer calculates the volume of lubricant remaining in a drum based on measuring the lubricant level and calculating the percentage of total drum volume the level represents. (3)
Data Analysis Math
  • Compare gauge readings gathered manually with readings displayed by distributed control systems to check the accuracy of the control system. (1)
  • Maintain the optimum balance of multiple operational parameters to ensure plant efficiency. For example, a stationary engineer in a brewery chooses the combination of pressure and temperature adjustments that minimizes usage of carbon dioxide for cooling fermenting beer while at the same time maximizing the amount of carbon dioxide that can be pulled off from the fermenting stage. (2)
  • Compare boiler efficiencies by calculating the average fuel consumption per boiler. (2)
  • Track system components such as emissions rates and load patterns to determine needed equipment adjustments. For example, they may monitor the rate of emission of carbon monoxide each hour and adjust the rate so emissions fall within the regulated limit for each four hour period or they may track steam use patterns to plan when to warm up and turn on additional boilers. (3)
Numerical Estimation
  • May estimate the dimensions of parts or quantities of supplies needed for repairs, such as the length of pipe needed to complete a repair. (1)
  • Estimate demand for power, heat, and other utilities. For example, a stationary engineer for a hotel estimates heating required based on weather forecasts and how many rooms are booked. If temperatures are forecasted to drop, the heating plant may need to operate more boilers. Errors in estimates could result in failure to provide adequate power or in wasteful fuel consumption. (2)
  • Estimate water and chemical usage over specified time periods. For example, a stationary engineer estimates the amount of make-up water that will be needed each day based on the amount of water that has been dumped over the last few days. The estimate of water usage, in turn, affects the amount of treatment chemicals needed. Errors in estimates could result in the plant dumping treated water that exceeds acceptable chemical composition ranges. (2)
  • Estimate fuel requirements for a given period. For example, a stationary engineer may fax a daily nomination of the amount of natural gas the plant will purchase from a supplier in the next twenty-four hours. The nomination is based on past use levels, the power demand for the day, and any problems anticipated that would reduce the availability of other fuels. If necessary, the stationary engineer can try to change the nomination but may find that the supplier has already sold out of gas for the day. (2)
Oral communication
  • Speak with co-workers to coordinate tasks and to exchange information about plant events. For example, they may ask co-workers to check readings or make equipment adjustments on the plant floor. They also communicate with co-workers during shift changes about any equipment breakdowns, unusual spikes in the system, or power interruptions. (1)
  • May interact with co-workers, clients and members of the public to discuss the operation of plants and equipment. For example, they may speak with hospital or university staff who are requesting changes to temperature and air quality in their building; with staff in manufacturing plants such as dairies, breweries or pulp mills about impending power interruptions; or with a member of the public complaining about smelly smoke from boiler and incinerator stacks. (2)
  • Explain equipment malfunctions to maintenance workers and outside contractors to facilitate troubleshooting and repair work. They may describe their observations, give directions for how to locate the equipment and mention any unusual precautions that need to be taken. (2)
  • Monitor two-way radio communications in plants to keep track of where co-workers are and what they are doing. They need to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information and to be alert to communication that might affect their safety and job tasks. (2)
  • Participate in regular staff meetings to discuss production, maintenance and safety topics. They may propose particular repairs to be made during scheduled shut downs and make suggestions for how to increase production or improve workplace efficiency. (2)
  • Communicate with co-workers to solve critical problems and deal with emergencies such as chemical leaks or power outages. For example, they troubleshoot and coordinate tasks with co-workers in the event of a power outage to determine the cause and duration of the outage, what plant functions are affected, and how to activate back-up systems. They coordinate actions to manually switch or turn on boilers, physically adjust and repair equipment parts, and monitor gauge readings and adjust levels as required. Quick and clear communication can help to minimize the impact on plant production. They may also be responsible for issuing fire and evacuation alarms by using PA systems. (3)
ThinkingProblem Solving
  • Deal with pump failures. For example, a stationary engineer in a recreation centre finds that a swimming pool pump has shut down. The stationary engineer ensures that the pool's second pump is working, repairs the first pump by replacing faulty parts and follows up by checking pump pressures and testing the water to ensure it has not been adversely affected by the pump failure. (1)
  • Experience leaks of various substances from plant systems. For example, a stationary engineer detects a minor ammonia leak in a refrigeration system. The engineer must locate and contain the leak and perform necessary repairs. This may require testing the flow route using a wetted litmus paper to identify where ammonia is present, determining which valves to shut off to isolate the problem, and attempting repairs or making a request for maintenance assistance. (2)
  • Deal with fluctuating demand for power, such as swings in demand for heat or cooling during season changes. They may switch from automatic to manual control since it is easier to make small changes quickly with manual controls. Manual operation runs the risk of missing particular readings or adjustments that could result in damage to equipment, but the risk is balanced by the increase of boiler system efficiency. (2)
  • Encounter unacceptable levels of pollutants in emissions systems. For example, a plant's sulphur dioxide emission is too high which requires checking the pipes and valves in the chemical emissions system to ensure sufficient lime and activated carbon are injected to scrub acids and absorb mercury in the emissions. The problem may be caused by a plugged feed pipe which can be corrected by simply hammering on the pipe to loosen the obstruction. (2)
  • Find that equipment malfunctions have created hazardous environments or conditions. For example, stationary engineers in a brewery may deal with a faulty safety valve that has allowed a large volume of carbon dioxide to escape. This in turn has caused the safety valve to freeze open. They must put on Scott air packs to add heat to the valve to thaw it and also work to isolate the tank to prevent further carbon dioxide loss. (2)
  • Experience fuel feed problems. For example, a pulp mill stationary engineer notices that the black liquor fuel evaporator flow rate is not to specifications. The engineer checks pumps and valves for malfunctions and may send a field worker to visually examine the whole line and to gather manual readings to confirm if computer readings are accurate. The problem may last briefly or for months. The plant may be able to keep functioning without solving the problem, but at reduced efficiency and capacity. (2)
  • May find that low firing rates have reduced steam production. Although there are standard procedures for increasing the firing rate, effective application of the procedures involves analysis of the relationships among a variety of factors. For example, they may analyze how to compensate for poor quality fuels such as wet garbage or wood by adjusting other factors such as air to fuel ratio, fuel feed stroke and pace, air duct pressure and under and over draft levels. They must adjust various levels to raise firing rates without wasting fuel or producing smoke and unacceptable emission opacity levels. (2)
  • Experience power outages and interruptions caused by downed hydro lines and poles. They contact the hydro supplier to find out the estimated duration of power loss, determine which plant service areas are affected and assess the on-site solutions available, for example to fire up back-up generators. The impact of a power interruption may be significant if it takes place at a university campus during mid-winter when many buildings and computers are demanding full power. Waiting out the interruption and monitoring the situation is an option but response time may be limited when the weather is very cold because a heat coil can freeze in 10 minutes and cost up to $50,000 if damaged. (3)
  • Experience boiler "trip outs", that is when boilers unexpectedly shut down due to electrical problems. For example, a stationary engineer finds that the biggest of a plant's four boilers has tripped out. The engineer must ascertain if the boiler can be recovered, if the loss of steam can be made up by the remaining boilers and if the remaining boilers are ready to operate to full capacity. If the steam loss cannot be made up the engineer must discuss with management the curtailment of various production functions. (3)
Decision Making
  • Decide to add treatment chemical to boiler water based on the results of water sample testing and how much raw water will be going into the system that day. (1)
  • Decide to adjust operational levels based on changing weather conditions and demands on the plant. For example, a refrigeration plant operator may decide to cut back on the number of ammonia compressors during cold winter days and when there is not much product in the cooler. Making the wrong decisions could result in loss of refrigeration and spoiled product. (2)
  • Decide whether to call in external contractors to make repairs after hours or to wait until regular daytime maintenance staff is available. They consider the urgency of the repair and the comparative costs involved in the two options. (2)
  • Decide the order of preventive maintenance jobs to be completed during a given time period based on the complexity and urgency of the jobs and how the work will fit in with the schedules of other departments. (2)
  • May make purchasing decisions, such as what supplies and equipment parts to keep in stock, or when and how much power to buy from external suppliers. For example, a stationary engineer may decide to purchase external hydro power during a breakdown of the in-plant generator based on an estimate of the time it will take to recover the generator. (2)
  • May decide which process to curtail when dealing with shortages. They select the processes that involve the least consequences. For example, a stationary engineer experiencing a major loss of steam pressure at a pulp mill plant may ask the pulp digester to shut down because that process uses a lot of steam and it can be stopped by simply closing a valve, whereas other pulp processes will require hours of shutdown and start-up time. (2)
  • Decide the values of system set points to maintain safe and efficient operation. During fluctuating demand times, it requires extensive background knowledge to keep plant equipment balanced. For example, if the water drum level on a boiler is set too low it may be difficult to fill it quickly enough when demand increases; conversely water level that is too high may result in blown pipes when demand drops. (3)
Critical Thinking
  • Assess the reliability of computer readings by comparing them with manually gathered gauge readings and with visual examination of equipment behaviour. (1)
  • Judge the criticality of repair tasks. For example, a stationary engineer judges whether a boiler will make it to the next scheduled maintenance, considering that the boiler is old and has only half of the elements working. A breakdown in the interim might require extra costs for unscheduled repairs and overtime. (2)
  • May evaluate the quality and suitability of different pumps to determine which replacement pumps to recommend. They analyze plant requirements and study technical specifications and manufacturers' literature to determine which pumps are most suitable. They must be able to justify their recommendations to managers. (2)
  • Judge the safety of equipment and installations. For example, stationary engineers in refrigeration plants judge the danger of ice fall in coolers based on examining the current ice accumulation and estimating the rate of further ice formation. They consider various factors that can affect ice formation such as the moisture and temperature of ambient air and the frequency with which the cooler doors are opened. (2)
  • May assess the significance of a wide range of abnormal equipment readings and alarms issued by distributed control systems. They draw on technical knowledge and experience to judge if the alarms are routine and require only minor adjustments of operating levels or if they indicate serious problems which require the initiation of major corrective procedures. Accurate assessments lead to timely corrective actions that can prevent costly equipment damage or production shutdowns. (3)
  • Assess the likelihood of major equipment failure based on interpreting a wide range of system levels. They synthesize the data with observations of repeated or unexplained malfunctions, such as boilers that pop valves and blow steam causing damage to boiler components. Accurate conclusions about the meaning of different readings and events can facilitate repairs; for example, in knowing whether to call in plumbers or mechanics. Inaccurate assessments can result in failure to plan needed maintenance shutdowns before a major breakdown occurs. (3)
  • Assess the efficiency of plant performance by using distributed control systems to monitor the levels of numerous inter-related plant processes such as fuel feed, furnace draft, boiler outlet, oxygen input, chemical feed, water and steam flows, pressures and temperatures. They check that these levels fall within specified ideal ranges, that computer readings agree with manually gathered gauge readings, and that the relationships between various levels are optimum for maximizing the production of power at minimum cost. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

The work of stationary engineers and auxiliary equipment operators is structured and dictated by the requirement for continuous operation of equipment for supplying heat, power and other utility services to various facilities. They generally follow a routine schedule of shift duties, including performing plant rounds at set intervals, and monitoring, adjusting and recording equipment and system levels. They also conduct water and chemical tests and perform preventive maintenance according to schedules. They organize their own tasks to carry out these duties and to ensure specified production targets are met.

Their schedule is usually steady and predictable, but it can also be interrupted by problems such as equipment malfunctions and power outages. These may require minutes to days to resolve. When problems occur, they must reprioritize and determine which tasks can be postponed or dropped. Even during emergencies, however, their tasks remain largely guided by standard operating procedures. (2)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Stationary engineers and auxiliary equipment operators do not generally plan or organize the work of others. When problems occur, senior operators may direct the tasks of crew members as needed to correct the problems. Some stationary engineers may be responsible for calling in and scheduling the work of contractors who do maintenance and repairs. Most stationary engineers participate in plant crew meetings to discuss safety and operational procedures. (2)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Memorize commonly used set-points to be able to more quickly assess system efficiency.
  • Remember how changes in the levels of some system components will affect others; for example, they remember how the levels of compressor pressure affect water temperatures.
  • Remember the capacity and comparative efficiency of different plant components. For example, they may remember steam generating capacity of different boilers and the comparative efficiency of air compressors.
  • Remember the allowed emission rates for air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.
  • Remember the codes and definitions of various system alarms.
Finding Information
  • Search the Internet for information which may affect operational decisions; for example, they may look up weather forecasts to predict power demand or find current energy prices on provincial websites. (1)
  • Look up standing orders in binders or in electronic documents to check operating parameters and procedures. (2)
  • Speak with other staff for advice about equipment and operation problems. For example, they may ask more experienced operators about how to fix older machinery for which operating and repair manuals are not available. (2)
  • Look up information on a range of distributed control system screens to monitor plant efficiency and troubleshoot problems. They draw on experience to know which screens to review for relevant information. For example, a stationary engineer may call up screens of historical data to check when an alarm first tripped on a function and to examine the levels of other functions at that time. (2)
  • Research equipment manuals and notes kept in plant and equipment logbooks to analyze equipment malfunctions or failures. (3)
Digital technology
  • Use word processing software. For example, they write short letters to supervisors and contractors, or longer documents such as policies and equipment operations manuals. They may use simple formatting features such as bold fonts and numbering lists of items. (2)
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining. For example, they may use distributed control systems to generate graphs of current and past operational data. They may display graphs showing the effect of over-fire air levels on furnace temperature or graphs of the history of alarms for a specific function. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, they send and receive e-mail messages and attachments to exchange information and to coordinate tasks with co-workers or to request technical information from suppliers. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they may access and bookmark websites that provide information about energy prices and weather forecasts. They may use a search engine to search for information about equipment and to locate local suppliers. They may download and open documents such as data sheets and equipment manuals. (2)
  • May use computerized maintenance management systems to look up preventive maintenance schedules and equipment history records, and to create work orders. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, they may look up and print out equipment information prior to scheduled maintenance, or enter process data in control systems and adjust the system database design by adding columns or fields. (3)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, they may use existing spreadsheets to enter meter readings and print out summary reports, and may design spreadsheets to organize their own personal shift rotation schedules or to keep track plant equipment life cycles. (3)
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining. For example, they monitor plant and building control systems to ensure that operation levels are within specified ranges and to make minor adjustments as needed. They may use the interface design function in plant control systems to change display appearance and function. For example, they may change how the water level in a vessel is shown. (3)
Additional informationOther Essential Skills:

Working with Others

The extent to which stationary engineers and auxiliary equipment operators need to work with others varies according to the size of the heat, power and other utility service plants where they work and the size and type of facilities these plants serve. In some settings stationary engineers work alone as a shift engineer, with little or no contact with other workers. In others, stationary engineers work with a shift crew of stationary engineers or with various maintenance staff. They occasionally work with a partner or helper as needed to troubleshoot and carry out equipment maintenance tasks, for example to turn a valve while a helper observes the effect on gauge readings or to clean ash from a furnace. They may also work as a team with other crew members to maintain plant efficiency and meet production targets. Senior operators may have greater responsibility for overseeing a number of plant functions and coordinating the activities of other workers, especially during problems and emergencies. (2)

Continuous Learning

The learning goals of stationary engineers and auxiliary equipment operators may be self-initiated or determined by management, but in both cases are largely determined by job task demands. They learn through performing work tasks, talking with co-workers, reading manuals and taking formal training courses and programs. Most of this learning focuses on safety, operational procedures and new equipment. They may take courses in firefighting, dealing with chemical spills, working in confined space, demineralizing boiler water, treating plant effluent, and operating new equipment. They may also take courses to upgrade their level of stationary engineering certification. (2)

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