Refinery Operator


Average Annual Salary


What do refinery operators do? 

An Operator works rotating shifts on various units within the refinery which process or produce crude oil, petroleum coke, fuel oil, intermediates, gasoline, diesel, steam, electricity and other products.  Some of the processes involved use hazardous and volatile materials under high temperature and pressure.  Operators are exposed to various work conditions including outside weather and elements, blowing air, heat, noise, vibration and occasionally working from heights and confined spaces. Operators must follow safe work practices including the wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  In addition, Operators perform various duties required to keep their assigned processing unit/area operating safely and at specified production/run rates.

What responsibilities will you likely have?  

The Operator may be responsible for:   

  • Maintaining equipment and operations.
  • Climbing ladders, tanks and towers.
  • Taking samples/readings of various process streams.
  • Initiating work orders and permitting for work related to the assigned unit.
  • Maintaining proper and safe process operations of the operating equipment.
  • Serving on the refinery emergency response fire brigade.
  • Communicating effectively during the shift and at shift relief regarding key process unit and equipment information.

What are companies looking for specifically? 

Basic/Required Qualifications

  • High school diploma or G.E.D
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Legally authorized to work in the United States on a regular full-time basis without restrictions
  • To work at least an 8-hour rotating shift and up to a 12-hour rotating shift, which includes some weekends and holidays (Employees generally work 48 hours one week, 36 hours the next, rotating between days and nights)
  • To work in enclosed spaces, such as tanks and silos
  • To work near large, hot, high-speed machines
  • To climb up to 250 feet in height
  • To lift a minimum of 50 pounds
  • To work around chemicals, including acids and bases
  • To wear fire retardant clothing and personal protective equipment (such as steel-toe shoes, ear and eye protection)
  • To maintain your face daily so that a respirator/face mask can seal properly (some examples include being free of facial hair and/or clean shaven)
  • To perform firefighting duties
  • To work outside in harsh weather conditions
  • To work with petroleum products that are under high pressure and heat
  • To read technical procedures and materials in English
  • To learn computer software associated with process operations

Preferred Qualifications

  • Associate’s degree or Technical certification in Process Technology from an accredited school
  • Military certifications that are process operations related
  • One or more years of direct experience working as a process operator, maintenance or technician in a refinery, chemical, power, nuclear, wastewater treatment, or pharmaceutical industry
  • Record of formal emergency response training within the last 24 month

*Compiled from information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as an industry average