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Gas Plant Operator

Gas plant operators control automated processes that convert raw natural gas into forms that can be used by consumers.

  • Avg. Salary $80,155.00
  • Avg. Wage $38.03
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 6,400
  • In Demand Medium
NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Petroleum, Gas and Chemical Process Operators (9232) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Petroleum, Gas and Chemical Process Operators (J112) 
  • 2011 NOC: Petroleum, gas and chemical process operators (9232) 
  • 2016 NOC: Central control and process operators, petroleum, gas and chemical processing (9232) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Gas Plant Operator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Petroleum, Gas and Chemical Process Operators

Interest in controlling process start-up, shut-down and troubleshooting; and in operating electronic or computerized control panels from a central control room; and in shutting down, isolating and preparing process units or production equipment for maintenance


Interest in analyzing information to develop operator procedures for normal operations, start-up and shut-down of units; and in participating in safety audits and programs, and in providing emergency response when required


Interest in speaking with team members and trainees to authorize or co-sign maintenance work orders; in ensuring adherence to safety and environmental regulations; may work in a team with shared supervisory responsibilities and participate in training other workers

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Dec 16, 2016

Gas plant operators are responsible for the day to day operation of natural gas plants. They monitor all the units in the plant to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

Gas plant operators' duties vary depending on the size of the gas plant. In large plants, more operators usually are required and their jobs are more specialized. Smaller gas plants require fewer people who may have a wider range of duties.

Junior operators, sometimes called trainee operators, work in units in gas plants such as the sulphur handling unit where sulphur is removed or the treating unit where water and impurities are removed and the gas is separated into components. Under the direction of unit operators, junior operators:

  • perform regular checks of their unit
  • keep records of temperatures, pressures, concentrations and flows
  • perform basic tests on the gas and chemicals at various processing stages
  • make adjustments to maintain the process or correct problems
  • perform minor equipment maintenance and repair tasks
  • test air samples for signs of gas or chemical leaks
  • ensure that flammable and other potentially dangerous products are in safe locations.

Unit operators ensure that an entire unit is operating smoothly. They are responsible for:

  • training and supervising junior operators
  • conducting and assisting with equipment inspections
  • starting up and shutting down plant equipment
  • reviewing and compiling records taken by junior operators
  • maintaining equipment and making minor repairs or requesting that repair and maintenance work be done
  • running product and boiler tests
  • monitoring controls
  • assisting junior operators in solving problems
  • assuring the safety of others in their areas.

Senior operators, sometimes called chief operators or lead hands, are responsible for the operations of a number of units and usually are the most experienced operators on their shift. Senior operators spend most of their time working in a control room where there are a number of control panels and charts and an alarm system that sounds when a problem occurs. If adjustments need to be made in a unit, or an alarm goes off, senior operators call the unit operators concerned and outline the necessary procedures.

In sour gas plants, operators are trained in emergency evacuation and firefighting procedures.

Much of the work in gas plant operations is relatively routine. Gas plant operators may go for long periods of time without a problem and then a serious failure or complication may occur. When this happens, operators must analyze the problem and act quickly and correctly.

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Depending on the design of the plant, junior operators may spend about half of their time outdoors. Their job requires a considerable amount of walking and lifting (up to 20 kilograms). Unit operators spend most of their time indoors but may be required to work outside when there are problems with outdoor equipment. Senior operators spend much of their time in the control room.

Gas plants operate 24 hours a day so operators are required to work 8 or 12 hour shifts. Operators must follow safety precautions to avoid injuries resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals and gases.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Gas plant operators need the following characteristics:

  • mechanical aptitude
  • mathematical ability
  • good eye-hand co-ordination and manual dexterity
  • good vision
  • excellent hearing
  • good communication skills in English
  • good judgement
  • agility and endurance.

They should enjoy controlling equipment, instruments and machinery, analyzing information to solve problems and working with others in a team.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 16, 2016

In gas plants that use generating sources other than steam, operators may not be required to meet specified formal education requirements. However, a high school diploma with courses in mathematics, chemistry and physics is a definite asset. The following safety courses also may be required or recommended:

  • Confined Space Entry
  • Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
  • Hydrogen Sulfide Awareness (H2S)
  • Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG)  
  • First Aid and CPR.

Gas plants that have power boilers or sulphur recovery units require operators to have an Alberta Power Engineering Certificate. In Alberta, power engineers are certified through the Alberta Boiler Safety Association. There are five levels of certification, advancing from a Fifth Class certificate to a First Class certificate. Each level of certification has different training and employment experience requirements.

Some companies provide in-house training opportunities to help gas plant operators advance to more senior positions.

Post-secondary schools that offer power engineering programs also may offer gas plant operations training by distance education (computer-managed learning or modularized materials). Admission requirements vary ranging from completion of Grade 10 math to a high school diploma with Grade 12 math and physics (or Science 30).


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Grande Prairie Regional College

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Northern Lakes College

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 16, 2016

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Gas plant operators are employed by oil and gas companies in gas plants which generally are located as close as possible to gas fields. There are hundreds of gas plants in Alberta: some near major cities, others in remote areas.

Individuals often start in field positions or as junior operators. Advancement to more senior positions such as unit operator and senior operator usually depends on experience and education. In gas plants where power engineering certificates are required, individuals may need higher certification to advance to more senior positions.

Senior operators may have the opportunity to move into supervisory positions, then advance to management positions located either at the plant or in major cities.

Gas plant operators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 9232: Petroleum, gas and chemical process operators. In Alberta, 84% 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.

In Alberta, the J112: Petroleum, Gas and Chemical Process Operators occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1% from 2016 to 2020. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 60 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

The Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada employment demand forecast indicates that over 30% of the workforce in the oil and gas industry is expected to retire in the next ten years. The number of people presently retiring already exceeds the number of new workers joining the industry today.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Salaries for gas plant operators vary depending on the plant and the qualifications of the operator.

Petroleum, gas and chemical process operators

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $16.50 $53.81 $32.22 $30.00
Overall $17.00 $56.59 $38.03 $34.66
Top $17.00 $66.60 $44.27 $41.59

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Trades, Industrial and Related Training
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Alberta Boilers Safety Association (ABSA) website:

Enform website:

Petroleum Human Resources (PHR) Careers in Oil and Gas (COG) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 30, 2015. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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