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Power Engineer

Power engineers supervise, operate and maintain machinery and boilers that provide steam, power, heat, refrigeration and other utility services to industrial and commercial facilities.

Also Known As:Engineer, Stationary Engineer, Steam Engineer
NOC Number(s):7351
Minimum Education:Less than high school
Employment Outlook:Job openings: turnover plus new jobs due to below average growth in occupation in Alberta 2013-2017
Interests:O i m

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Power Engineer


Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

Power engineers are responsible for the safe and efficient operation and maintenance of industrial equipment such as boilers, steam and gas turbines, generators, gas and diesel internal combustion engines, pumps, condensers, compressors, pressure vessels and related controls. In large industrial or building complexes, they also may be responsible for heating, air-conditioning, ventilation, refrigeration, fire systems and building control systems.

Responsibilities vary from one position to another but, in general, power engineers:

  • ensure that safety codes and other applicable regulations are followed
  • use computerized systems to control, start, shut down and track the operation of boilers and related equipment, or use automatic or manual controls
  • monitor alarms, gauges and other instruments associated with plant operations
  • trouble shoot and take corrective action to prevent equipment or system failures
  • isolate and lock out equipment mechanically and electrically for inspection and repair
  • ensure that equipment and processes operate at maximum efficiency
  • take chemical tests of boiler water and other process samples, interpret them and determine appropriate chemical treatments
  • assist in the development of operation, maintenance and safety procedures
  • prepare equipment for maintenance and inspection (for example, shut down, lock out, restart)
  • maintain a daily log of operation, maintenance and safety activities
  • investigate and report on safety related accidents or incidents
  • write reports about plant operation
  • work with outside agencies, consultants and contractors.

Industrial plants and building operations often are automated to enhance production efficiency and improve safety. In some plants, senior power engineers may work in control room environments, analyzing problems and taking action to ensure continuous and reliable operation of equipment and systems. At times, they must switch from automatic controls to manual controls to correct problems and ensure the safety of staff and equipment.


Working Conditions

Working conditions vary considerably in this occupation. In junior positions, power engineers may be exposed to high noise levels, high temperatures, high humidity, all types of outdoor weather conditions, dust, grease, hazardous chemicals or unpleasant odours. For example, those working in coal-fired power generating stations are exposed to coal dust and fly ash. In large plants, power engineers may be required to enter confined spaces or inspect equipment located at extreme heights. Power engineers in senior positions often work in climate controlled environments or offices.

Lifting items that weigh up to 20 kilograms may be an occasional or regular part of the work. Safety precautions and procedures must be observed to reduce the risk of injury. Some plants do not allow smoking anywhere on site.

Power engineers often work shifts, weekends, holidays and emergency overtime to accommodate continuous production.


Personal Characteristics

Power engineers need the following characteristics:

  • mechanical and electrical aptitude
  • good vision, hearing, manual dexterity and eye-hand co-ordination
  • good communication skills in person and in writing
  • good organizational and decision making skills
  • the ability to work safely and efficiently
  • the ability to work well with others in a team environment.

Power engineers should enjoy controlling and operating manual and automated systems, analyzing information and solving problems, and having clear rules and organized methods for their work.


Educational Requirements

In Alberta, power engineers are certified through the Alberta Boilers Safety Association (ABSA). Standardized certification exam results are accepted in all Canadian provinces and territories.

There are five standardized levels of certification, advancing from Fifth Class certificate to First Class certificate. Each level of certification has different training and employment experience (firing time) requirements. There also are two provincial levels of certification: Special Oilwell Operator and Special Boiler Operator. In addition to work experience, completion of an approved course normally is required to challenge Fourth and Fifth Class Certificate of Competency examinations.

To write the examination for the:

  • Third Class certificate, candidates must have the required operating experience while holding a Fourth Class certificate. They also must have successfully completed Science 10 or 14, Applied Math 10 or Pure Math 10, and English Language Arts 10-1 or 10-2 (or equivalents), OR pass Part A of a recognized Third Class course in power engineering.
  • Second Class certificate, candidates must have the required operating experience while holding a Third Class certificate. They also must have successfully completed Science 20 or Physics 20, Applied Math 20 or Pure Math 20, and English Language Arts 20-1 or 20-2 (or equivalents), OR pass Part A of a recognized Second Class course in power engineering.
  • First Class certificate, candidates must have the required operating experience while holding a Second Class certificate. They also must have successfully completed Science 30 or Physics 30, Applied Math 20 or Pure Math 20, and English Language Arts 20-1 or 20-2 (or equivalent), OR pass Part A of a First Class course in power engineering.

Power engineering programs, distance learning and continuing education courses are offered by the following post-secondary institutions in Alberta:

Entrance requirements for standardized power engineering programs vary but generally include Grade 12 English and Grade 11 math and physics courses. Some programs require a high school diploma or equivalent.

Continuing education programs may be offered on an as needed basis.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Section revised April 2012

Related Legislation

Under Alberta's Safety Codes Act and Power Engineers Regulation, you must hold an appropriate certificate from the Alberta Boilers Safety Association (ABSA) to supervise a power plant, heating plant or thermal heating system. Different types of certificates are required to operate and maintain different types of boilers. Certification is not required to assist in the operation of a power or heating plant under the supervision of a certified Power Engineer.

To find more information on the certification process see Power Engineer Certification Process on the AlbertaCanada.com website.

Section revised June 2013

Employment and Advancement

Power engineers may be employed in any industry in which boilers are used. For example, they may be employed in:

  • gas plants
  • power generating plants
  • heavy oil plants
  • petrochemical plants
  • pulp mills
  • plastic plants
  • breweries 
  • food production plants
  • refineries
  • hospitals
  • hotels
  • schools and other institutions
  • office and apartment complexes.

Competition for entry level positions is keen, especially at the third, fourth and fifth class Power Engineer levels. Advancement to more responsible positions usually requires higher levels of certification. However, higher level certificates do not guarantee promotion.

Power engineers are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 7351: Stationary Engineers and Auxiliary Equipment Operators. In Alberta, 80 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 2,600 Albertans are employed in the Stationary Engineers and Auxiliary Equipment Operators occupational group which is expected to have an annual below average growth of 0.8 per cent from 2013 to 2017 in Alberta. It is forecasted that about 21 new positions will be created each year in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. (Note: Since power engineers form only a part of the larger occupational group on which this forecast is based, only a portion of the new positions created will be for power engineers.)

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013

Salary

Earnings for power engineers vary according to the level of certificate held, the responsibilities of the position, and the location and size of the employing organization.

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Stationary Engineers and Auxilliary Equipment Operators occupational group earned on average from $29.77 to $44.36 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $38.27 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website: www.alis.alberta.ca/edinfo

Alberta Boilers Safety Association (ABSA) website: www.absa.ca


Related Occupational Profiles
Building Operator
Gas Plant Operator
Landfill Gas Plant Operator
Occupational Health and Safety Advisor
Safety Codes Officer

Related High School Subjects
Science; and Trades, Manufacturing and Transportation (Electro-Technologies; and Mechanics)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Trades, Industrial and Related Training

Produced July 2011
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services