Due to the COVID-19 pandemic some of our job opportunities information may have changed. 

Energy and Chemical Plant Operator

Kaiwhakahaere Rawa Pūngao, Rawa Matū

Alternative titles for this job

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

Pay

New energy and chemical plant operators usually earn

$70K-$80K per year

Energy and chemical plant operators with five or more years' experience usually earn

$80K-$180K per year

Source: EnergySkills NZ, 2020.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an energy and chemical plant operator are average for those wanting to enter the role, but good for those with experience.

Pay

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.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

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.

Skills and knowledge

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.

Working 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.

Entry requirements

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.

Secondary education

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.

Additional requirements for specialist roles:

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). 

Personal requirements

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.

Useful experience

Useful experience for energy and chemical plant operators includes:

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

Physical requirements

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

Find out more about training

Primary ITO
0800 20 80 20 - info@primaryito.ac.nz - www.primaryito.ac.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Opportunities best for experienced energy and chemical plant operators

Demand for energy and chemical plant operators is good due to:

  • a number of them retiring – 35% of energy and chemical plant operators are 55 or older
  • the occupation growing – employment in the chemicals, plastics and refining sector grew by 11% between 2013 and 2018
  • reasonably high turnover.

Employers report difficulty finding skilled workers, so your chances of getting a job are best if you have experience as an energy and chemical plant operator. Employers may also consider you if you have experience in an industry, such as construction, that uses similar skills.

According to the Census, 1,680 energy and chemical plant operators worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Types of employers varied

Energy and chemical plant operators may work for:

  • oil and gas companies
  • power plants 
  • chemical, fertiliser, or pulp and paper manufacturers.

Sources

  • EnergySkills New Zealand, 'Operators', accessed November 2020, (www.energyskills.co.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Manufacturing Sector Report', 2018, (www.mbie.govt.nz). 
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook for Factory Workers', accessed November 2020, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

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.
Two power plant operators look at a diagram together in front of plant equipment

Energy and chemical plant operators monitoring equipment at a power plant

Last updated 28 January 2021