Fossil-fuel power plant operator


Fossil-fuel power plant operators operate and maintain industrial equipment, such as generators, turbines and boilers, that provides electricity produced from fossil fuels like natural gas or coal. They ensure the safety of operations and that the equipment complies with legislation. They may also work in combined cycle power plants which use heat recovery systems to recover exhaust heat from one operation and activate steam turbines.

The duties of a fossil-fuel power plant operator typically include, but are not limited to:

  • Operating and maintaining industrial equipment, such as generators, turbines, and boilers, that provide electricity produced from fossil fuels
  • Monitoring the equipment to ensure that it is functioning properly
  • Making adjustments to the equipment as needed
  • Performing maintenance on machines
  • Disconnecting equipment from circuitry
  • Logging operational data and compiling reports

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to fossil-fuel power plant operator:

combined cycle power plant operator
coal-fired power plant operator
LNG-fired power plant operator
power station operator
power station worker
heat recovery power plant production operator
generator operator
turbine operator
turbine operative
fossil-fuel power plant boiler operative
generator worker
gas-fired power plant operator
fossil-fuel power plant boiler operator

Working conditions

Fossil-fuel power plant operators work in a combination of control rooms, where they monitor and control the power generation processes, and the plant site, where they perform inspections, maintenance, and repairs. The work environment can vary from indoor control rooms to outdoor areas, which may include machinery, boilers, turbines, and high-voltage equipment. Operators may be exposed to high temperatures, noise, vibrations, and potentially hazardous materials. Strict adherence to safety procedures and protocols is crucial to mitigate risks associated with power plant operations.

Minimum qualifications

The educational requirements for fossil-fuel power plant operators can vary, but typically a high school diploma or equivalent is required. Additional technical or vocational training in power plant operations, electrical systems, or related fields is beneficial. Operators undergo specific training in power plant operations, safety protocols, and equipment maintenance. Some regions or employers may require operators to obtain relevant certifications or licenses, such as a power plant operator certification or electrical license. Good technical aptitude, problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work in a team are essential for fossil-fuel power plant operators.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Fossil-fuel power plant operator is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Fossil-fuel power plant operator career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to fossil-fuel power plant operator.

geothermal power plant operator
hydroelectric plant operator
solar power plant operator
power production plant operator
power plant control room operator

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of fossil-fuel power plant operator. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of fossil-fuel power plant operator with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

electric power generation engineer
substation engineer
power distribution engineer
power plant manager
nuclear engineer

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of fossil-fuel power plant operator.

  • Electric current: Flow of electric charge, carried by electrons or ions in a medium such as an electrolyte or a plasma.
  • Electrical power safety regulations: The compliance with safety measures which need to be taken during the installation, operation, and maintenance of constructions and equipment which function in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power, such as the appropriate safety gear, equipment handling procedures, and preventive actions.
  • Fossil-fuel power plant operations: The different steps in the production of electricity using fossil fuels and the function of all the components of the required equipment such as boilers, turbines and generators.
  • Electricity: Understand the principles of electricity and electrical power circuits, as well as the associated risks.
  • Electric generators: The principles and operations of devices that can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, such as dynamos and alternators, rotors, stators, armatures, and fields.
  • Mechanics: Theoretical and practical applications of the science studying the action of displacements and forces on physical bodies to the development of machinery and mechanical devices.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of fossil-fuel power plant operator.

  • Monitor utility equipment: Monitor equipment which provides utility services such as power, heat, refrigeration, and steam, in order to ensure they are functional, operate according to regulations, and to check for faults.
  • Monitor gauge: Oversee the data presented by a gauge concerning the measurement of pressure, temperature, thickness of a material, and others.
  • Troubleshoot: Identify operating problems, decide what to do about it and report accordingly.
  • Maintain electrical equipment: Test electrical equipment for malfunctions. Take safety measures, company guidelines, and legislation concerning electrical equipment into account. Clean, repair and replace parts and connections as required.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear: Wear relevant and necessary protective gear, such as protective goggles or other eye protection, hard hats, safety gloves.
  • Operate boiler: Operate sealed vessels which contain fluids which are heated or vaporised, not always up to boiling, for heating or power generation, such as in utilities. Ensure safe procedures by monitoring the blower auxiliary equipment closely during operations, and identifying faults and risks.
  • Operate steam turbine: Operate equipment which uses thermal energy, extracted from pressurised steam, to generate rotary motion. Ensure that the turbine is balanced, and operates according to safety regulations and legislation, by monitoring the equipment during operations.
  • Control steam flows: Admit steam through lines or fuel to furnace to heat drier.
  • Regulate steam pressure: Regulate steam pressure and temperatures according to specifications.
  • Apply health and safety standards: Adhere to standards of hygiene and safety established by respective authorities.
  • Monitor electric generators: Monitor the operation of electric generators in power stations in order to ensure functionality and safety, and to identify need for repairs and maintenance.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of fossil-fuel power plant operator. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Electricity consumption: The different factors which are involved in the calculation and estimation of electricity consumption in a residence or facility, and methods in which electricity consumption can be lowered or made more efficient.
  • Natural gas: The various facets of natural gas: its extraction, processing, constituents, uses, environmental factors, etc.
  • Fossil fuels: The types of fuels which contain high doses of carbon and include gas, coal, and petroleum, and the processes by which they are formed, such as the anaerobic decomposition of organisms, as well as the ways in which they are used to generate energy.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of fossil-fuel power plant operator. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Ensure compliance with environmental legislation: Monitor activities and perform tasks ensuring compliance with standards involving environmental protection and sustainability, and amend activities in the case of changes in environmental legislation. Ensure that the processes are compliant with environment regulations and best practices.
  • Maintain records of maintenance interventions: Keep written records of all repairs and maintenance interventions undertaken, including information on the parts and materials used, etc.
  • Resolve equipment malfunctions: Identify, report and repair equipment damage and malfunctions; communicate with field representatives and manufacturers to obtain repair and replacement components.
  • Ensure safety in electrical power operations: Monitor and control operations on an electrical power transmission and distribution system in order to ensure that major risks are controlled and prevented, such as electrocution risks, damage to property and equipment, and instability of transmission or distribution.
  • Respond to emergency calls for repairs: Respond promptly to clients’ emergency calls for repairs and troubleshooting of devices.
  • Close circuit breaker: Synchronize incoming generating units with units already in operation. Close the circuit breaker at the exact instant of coincidence between both unit types.
  • Arrange equipment repairs: Arrange for equipment repairs when necessary.
  • Advise on equipment maintenance: Advise customers on the appropriate products, methods and, if necessary, interventions to ensure proper maintenance and prevent premature damage of an object or an installation.
  • Respond to electrical power contingencies: Set in motion the strategies created for responding to emergency situations, as well as respond to unforeseen problems, in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power, such as power outages, in order to rapidly solve the problem and return to normal operations.
  • Ensure compliance with electricity distribution schedule: Monitor the operations of an electrical energy distribution facility and electricity distribution systems in order to ensure that the distribution goals and the electricity supply demands are met.
  • Maintain system logs: Maintain system logs or manuals to document equipment testing and operation.
  • Operate ash handling equipment: Monitor and control the different types of machines, such as dewatering bins or vibrating ash conveyor, used to remove ash from under the boiler, cool it and dry it to make it fit for transportation.
  • Tend compressor engine: Tend the gas compression engines by starting them, monitoring the process of gas compression and performing small maintenance tasks.
  • Read engineering drawings: Read the technical drawings of a product made by the engineer in order to suggest improvements, make models of the product or operate it.
  • Coordinate electricity generation: Communicate the current demand of electricity generation to electricity generation workers and facilities in order to ensure that the generation of electrical power can be increased or decreased accordingly.
  • Perform minor repairs to equipment: Conduct routine maintenance on equipment. Recognise and identify minor defects in equipment and make repairs if appropriate.
  • Operate gas turbines: Operate equipment which uses thermal energy to produce electricity by injecting gas into pressurised air and igniting it to generate a high-temperature flow that will set the turbine in motion. Ensure that the turbine is balanced, and operates according to safety regulations and legislation, by monitoring the equipment during operations.
  • Liaise with engineers: Collaborate with engineers to ensure common understanding and discuss product design, development and improvement.
  • Report on production results: Report on production to the hierarchy. Mention a specified set of parameters, such as amount produced and timing, and any issues or unexpected occurrences.
  • Train employees: Lead and guide employees through a process in which they are taught the necessary skills for the perspective job. Organise activities aimed at introducing the work and systems or improving the performance of individuals and groups in organisational settings.
  • Replace large components: Dismantle and reassemble equipment or system parts in order to replace large defective elements such as generators or engines.

ISCO group and title

3131 – Power production plant operators

  1. Fossil-fuel power plant operator – ESCO
Last updated on June 19, 2023