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Career profile Refinery Operator

Also known as Board Operator, Crude Unit Operator, Gauger, Hydrotreater Operator, Outside Operator, Pumper, Refinery Operator, Stillman, Unit Operator

Refinery Operator

Also known as Board Operator, Crude Unit Operator, Gauger

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
  • Enterprising
Pay Range
$49,420 - $104,470 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Operations Monitoring
  • Monitoring
  • Reading Comprehension
Knowledge Areas
  • Mechanical
  • Mathematics
  • Public Safety and Security
Core tasks
  • Monitor process indicators, instruments, gauges, and meters to detect and report any possible problems.
  • Start pumps and open valves or use automated equipment to regulate the flow of oil in pipelines and into and out of tanks.
  • Control or operate manifold and pumping systems to circulate liquids through a petroleum refinery.
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What does a Refinery Operator do?

Refinery Operators operate or control petroleum refining or processing units.

In addition, Refinery Operators may specialize in controlling manifold and pumping systems, gauging or testing oil in storage tanks, or regulating the flow of oil into pipelines.

What kind of tasks does a Refinery Operator perform regularly?

Refinery Operators are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Monitor process indicators, instruments, gauges, and meters to detect and report any possible problems.
  • Start pumps and open valves or use automated equipment to regulate the flow of oil in pipelines and into and out of tanks.
  • Control or operate manifold and pumping systems to circulate liquids through a petroleum refinery.
  • Operate control panels to coordinate and regulate process variables such as temperature and pressure, and to direct product flow rate, according to process schedules.
  • Verify that incoming and outgoing products are moving through the correct meters, and that meters are working properly.
  • Signal other workers by telephone or radio to operate pumps, open and close valves, and check temperatures.
  • Read automatic gauges at specified intervals to determine the flow rate of oil into or from tanks, and the amount of oil in tanks.
  • Operate auxiliary equipment and control multiple processing units during distilling or treating operations, moving controls that regulate valves, pumps, compressors, and auxiliary equipment.
  • Plan movement of products through lines to processing, storage, and shipping units, using knowledge of interconnections and capacities of pipelines, valve manifolds, pumps, and tankage.
  • Read and analyze specifications, schedules, logs, test results, and laboratory recommendations to determine how to set equipment controls to produce the required qualities and quantities of products.
  • Synchronize activities with other pumphouses to ensure a continuous flow of products and a minimum of contamination between products.
  • Record and compile operating data, instrument readings, documentation, and results of laboratory analyses.
  • Patrol units to monitor the amount of oil in storage tanks, and to verify that activities and operations are safe, efficient, and in compliance with regulations.
  • Maintain and repair equipment, or report malfunctioning equipment to supervisors so that repairs can be scheduled.
  • Collect product samples by turning bleeder valves, or by lowering containers into tanks to obtain oil samples.
  • Inspect pipelines, tightening connections and lubricating valves as necessary.
  • Conduct general housekeeping of units, including wiping up oil spills and performing general cleaning duties.

The above responsibilities are specific to Refinery Operators. More generally, Refinery Operators are involved in several broader types of activities:

Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Controlling Machines and Processes
Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials
Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.

What is a Refinery Operator salary?

The median salary for a Refinery Operator is $78,840, and the average salary is $77,610. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Refinery Operator salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Refinery Operators earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Refinery Operators earn less than $49,420 per year, 25% earn less than $62,090, 75% earn less than $94,830, and 90% earn less than $104,470.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Refinery Operators is expected to change by 5.4%, and there should be roughly 4,400 open positions for Refinery Operators every year.

Median annual salary
$78,840
Typical salary range
$49,420 - $104,470
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
5.4%

What personality traits are common among Refinery Operators?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Refinery Operator are usually higher in their Realistic and Conventional interests.

Refinery Operators typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Also, Refinery Operators typically have moderate Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Refinery Operator tend to value Support, Independence, and Working Conditions.

Most importantly, Refinery Operators strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Refinery Operators moderately value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Lastly, Refinery Operators moderately value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Refinery Operators must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, attention to detail, and integrity.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Refinery Operators, ranked by importance:

Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
Achievement/Effort
Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.

What education and training do Refinery Operators need?

Working as a Refinery Operator usually requires a high school diploma.

Refinery Operators need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Refinery Operators

  • 9.2% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 33.9% completed high school or secondary school
  • 33.7% completed some college coursework
  • 11.2% earned a Associate's degree
  • 11.1% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 0.6% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Refinery Operators

Refinery Operators may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as mechanical, mathematics, or public safety and security knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Refinery Operators might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Mechanical
Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Production and Processing
Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.

Important Abilities needed by Refinery Operators

Refinery Operators must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Refinery Operators need abilities such as problem sensitivity, perceptual speed, and near vision in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Refinery Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Perceptual Speed
The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Auditory Attention
The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
Information Ordering
The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).

Critical Skills needed by Refinery Operators

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Refinery Operators frequently use skills like operations monitoring, monitoring, and reading comprehension to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Refinery Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

Operations Monitoring
Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Monitoring
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Operation and Control
Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Quality Control Analysis
Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.