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  1. #1

    Plant operator??


    I have been hearing the term "plant operator" used alot in many of the buildings I am visiting.

    The guys with the title seem to walk around and look at stuff but I don't see any of them doing much labor type work.

    What is a plant operator?

    What do they do?

    What qualifications do they need?

    Is the pay good?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Buffalo N.Y.
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    1,571
    A "Plant Operator" is a generic name given to anyone from a small maintenance shop employee to a large power house boiler operator.

    The name in and by itself doesn't really mean anything as to qualifications.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    villalba,p,r
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    170
    hi friend; the plant operator you can change setpoint in the computer example in cleanroom,in the farmaceutical indutrial some problem with the RH, PRESSURE,TEMP YOU USE THE COMPUTER.only you.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    1,810
    I have sites where the PLANT OPERATOR is a fully qualified / licensed multi trades person , co ordinates all outside contractors , has staff of tradesman on the payroll and does a great job and makes good $ to a guy who looks in the door of the mech room once a week if hes not buisy walking around talking to the tenants.

    The term was from when most buildings had a GUARDED boiler operation and required stationary enginerers on duty 24/7, or large Central Heating & Refrigeration plants and self generating power plants like you would have found in large goverment facilities, airports, railyard / stations.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ft Worth Tx ( North Richland Hills)
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    2,143
    I have that title "Central Plant Operator". When I was working out of a truck, I thought the definition was:
    A Guy who reclines behind a desk with both feet on it with a playboy magazine in his lap who calls in contractors to fix his stuff.

    Here I do it all except for centrifugal teardowns and boiler retubing. I do the yearly "stops" on the centrifugals. I punch or acidize the condenser tubes. I clean my towers,monitor water chemical treatment. I take care of the Metasys automation system. I change air filters and all the p.m. stuff. I have a plumber and a electrician for helpers.

    Got called in at 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night ...One of the air handlers serving the galleries (Art Museum) tripped high static pressure....Reset it ...then the VFD would ramp it up to 30 hz. and trip on overcurrent and autoreset.Ramp to 30 hz. dropout over and over. Removed the belts from the unit, put it in bypass ...no problems. Checked the motor with a megger at the disconnect...showed all 3 legs bad ( less than 20 megs) Figured I needed a 30 h.p. fan motor. Left at 3:00 a.m. was back in at 7:30 calling around for a motor. Found one for $1,300.00. Said let me check one more thing. Disconnected wiring leads from the motor...motor read good...wiring from disconnect to motor read bad. So replaced 36' of 1/0 gauge wire.

    Contractors? I don't need no stinkin contractors!
    How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

  6. #6
    Go to the "Wall of Pride" and look at the postings "Classic" and "Easy Operation" and see what real Plant Operators do. The plant in the "Easy Operation" posting could easily eat up "120,000 to $180,000 per month in electrical operating costs. The "Plant Operator" operates equipment and monitors control function that starts, stops, loads and unloads all mechanical equipment to maintain tenant comfort amd energy efficiency. A slight mistake such as allowing a 1000 ton chiller to come on-line and load up during the on-peak part of the day during the summer in Dallas, Texas can result in demand penalties of $50,000 to $100,000 per year.

    My "Plant Operators" did not perform maintenance or repair, but were in charge of and held responsible for tenant comfort and energy cost. They were trained extensively in heat transfer, energy management, electrical operating cost, chiller plant operation, water treatment and anything else that could result in energy savings. I ran a large chilled water plant much like the Navy runs a submarine.

    Granted... some people use the title loosely, but then they are not REAL plant operators.... just POSERS. Wearing the hat doen't make you a cowboy!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ft Worth Tx ( North Richland Hills)
    Posts
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    coolh20
    Poser?.....I am responsible for very tight temperature and
    humidity control for an art museum. Human comfort takes a back seat to the preservation of Millions of dollars worth of paintings, photograghs and negatives. Before the art can be insured...dozens of hygrothermographic charts are scrutinied for stable temperature and relative humidity control. These charts are checked yearly before the policies are renewed. Art exhibitions travel about the world from museum to museum. Before any traveling exhibition can be shown at an institution, its records of temperature and humdity control are thouroughly examined to insure the art will be exhibited in a stable environment.

    I have 32 years experience, having worked for Trane (10years), Honeywell(3 years) and Johnson Controls (4 1/2years)as well as a start-up technician for large mechanical contractors. I take pride in the fact that I can and do maintain my own equipment rather than having to contract it out. I wear both hats and can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

    I have 3, 220 ton Carrier XR centrifugals, 2, 125 h.p. 100 psi steam boilers, 8 air handlers of up to 100 horsepower supply fan motors,Reverse osmosis water treatment systems.

    I've installed, programmed, debugged and repaired automation systems. I'm the kind of guy your "operators" call when the **** hits the fan.
    How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

  8. #8
    Whoa... Hoss! I wasn't pointing any fingers at anyone who diligently persues this field. There are many important plant operating positions. Having been an operator and/or chief engineer for many years I have had many applications that I have wanted responsibility for. Among them and I might add at the top of the list is a museum application. I completely understand the challenge and the ramifications of error or lack of responsibility, I have had responsibility for massive data centers and telephone switches as well as oil and gas lease archives for one of the largest oil exploration companies in the country.

    I apologize if I lead you to believe that I had a lack of respect due to types of facility or system application. I do have a serious lack of respect for the ones that just look into the equipment room doors a couple of times a day. To do the job that the title represents requires the type of background that you described and a level of dedication that would piss you off when you think you have been slighted. So again... My sincere apology if I offended you.

    I had plant engineers that were master electricians, master plumbers, journeyman mechanics, controls techs, ex-Navy nukes and many more quality individuals. We did ALL of our work in-house as well and took pride in the operating condition of our equipment. And I would add... We would have been seriously pissed if someone suggested otherwise.

    We did not however call anyone when the **** hit the fan. My crews are always deep with talent and are fully capable of handling anything that should arise in that given facility. It sounds to me like you would be a worthy associate in any facility I have been in.



    [Edited by coolh2o on 10-24-2004 at 12:31 PM]

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ft Worth Tx ( North Richland Hills)
    Posts
    2,143
    Apologies accepted and extended.....I do appreciate your pointing out that the plant operator label isn't very well respected because of its loose application to unskilled types who are 1/2 a step above a janitor. I guess your post located just below mine led me to wrongly believe that it was directed my way. Hats off to you and your professionalism. In my own way I was trying to show that not all of us are semi-skilled do-nothings.
    How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

  10. #10
    How about stationary engineer?
    Big word for a maint guy or what.
    Sound important though.
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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Buffalo N.Y.
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    1,571
    Originally posted by Diceman
    How about stationary engineer?
    Big word for a maint guy or what.
    Sound important though.

    Oh!!! dice, that cuts deep, yet funny in some ways.

    There is a big difference between the two, and all depending on your industry and or location there is an extreme difference.
    Even though both maintenance and stationary engineers may be part of "Plant Operations" their respective duties may or may not cross lines.
    Up here in these parts a licensed engineer is required at any plant that runs hi pressure boilers, and then a certain class level is required depending on boiler HP. A testing process to advance is required to move up the class levels, A Chiefs test is difficult to say the least, you have to sleep, eat, dream boilers to attain the knowledge to pass.

    Anyone can destroy a lo pressure boiler if they so desire, no license needed.
    Try to tend to a 1500 psi watertube boiler that spans 3 stories and generates well over million pounds at full generating capacity, try to feed coal at the proper rates or set up the auto hopper feeder, sootblow the tubes without eating them up in quick time, I thought so.

    I've seen some questionable guys who should not have been licensed to operate boilers, but on the other hand, I've seen some service techs who should not have been allowed to operate a screwdriver, it goes both ways.
    Knowledge is power, but so is common sense.

  12. #12
    In Texas which is a right to work state, a stationary engineer license is not always required to be a plant operator in a building, but is a respected license as it is usually an indication of exposure to plant operations. I believe Houston requires a stationary engineers license. When I first got into the business I worked in Dallas for a company that was based in Houston and we were required to participate in a training program that they used in Houston to prepare for that license.

    The most knowledgable plant operators I ever had as far as heat transfer and fluid flow, applied energy and equipment operations were ex-Navy nukes. Thermo, pressure laws, fan laws, they had it all.

  13. #13
    Bobby.... You are right about high pressure applications. A license is required to operate them down south also. Speaking of big boilers up north.... I saw one in downton St. Paul for the central heating loop that was freakin' huge. We only see something like that down here in a power plant.

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