Stationary engineer

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Operators controlling various equipment within a control room

A stationary engineer (also called an operating engineer, power engineer or process operator) is a technically trained person who operates, troubleshoots, and oversees industrial machinery and equipment that provide and utilize energy in various forms.

Stationary engineers are responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of a wide range of equipment including boilers, steam turbines, gas turbines, pumps, gas compressors, generators, motors, air conditioning systems, heat exchangers, refrigeration equipment, heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs) that may be directly (duct burners) or indirectly fired (gas turbine exhaust heat collectors), hot water generators, and refrigeration machinery in addition to its associated auxiliary equipment (air compressors, natural gas compressors, electrical switchgear, pumps, etc.).

Stationary engineers are trained in many areas, including mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical, metallurgy, instrumentation, and a wide range of safety skills. They typically work in factories, office buildings, hospitals, warehouses, power generation plants, industrial facilities, and residential and commercial buildings.

The use of the title Stationary Engineer predates other engineering designations and is not to be confused with Professional Engineer, a title typically given to design engineers in their given field. The job of today's engineer has been greatly changed by computers and automation as well as the replacement of steam engines on ships and trains. Workers have adapted to the challenges of the changing job market.

Today, stationary engineers are required to be significantly more involved with the technical aspect of the job, as many plants and buildings are updated with increasingly more automated systems of control valves and distributed control systems.


The profession of stationary engineering emerged during the industrial revolution with the development of steam-powered pumps by Thomas Savery and Thomas Newcomen which were used to draw water from mines, and the industrial steam engines perfected by James Watt. Railroad engineers operated early steam locomotives and continue to operate trains today, as well as marine engineers, who operated the boilers on steamships. The certification and classification of stationary engineers was developed in order to reduce incidents of boiler explosions in the late 19th century.[1] Notable individuals who worked as stationary engineers include George Stephenson[2] and Henry Ford.[3]

Canadian Regulation[edit]

In Canada, Power Engineers are regulated by their respective jurisdictions. Each Province has a safety authority that is granted power through "enabling acts" and overseen by the Canadian Standards Association. Examinations and licensing in all 10 provinces and three territories are regulated by the Standardization of Power Engineers Examinations Committee (SOPEEC)[4]

Jurisdictional Authorities[edit]

Canadian Power / Operating Engineers Licensing by Province & Territory
Province Jurisdictional Authority Class System Regulations
Alberta Alberta Boilers Safety Association (ABSA) 5th Class to 1st Class Power Engineers Regulation[5]
British Columbia Technical Safety British Columbia (TSBC) 5th Class to 1st Class Power Engineers, Boiler, Pressure Vessel And Refrigeration Safety Regulation[6]
Manitoba Office of The Fire Commissioner 5th Class to 1st Class
New Brunswick Government of New Brunswick 4th Class to 1st Class
Ontario Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) 4th Class to 1st Class
Quebec Régie du bâtiment du Québec and Emploi-Québec (RBQ, EQ) 4th Class to 1st Class Certifications en Mécanique de Machines Fixes [7]
Saskatchewan Technical Safety Authority of Saskatchewan 5th Class to 1st Class

United States Regulation[edit]

In the United States Power Engineers are governed solely by their individual states, or by their specific municipalities. Several States, such as Maine[8] have opted to align with Canada's guidelines regarding power engineering education, however, this is not common.

In the United States, stationary engineers must be licensed in several cities and states. The New York City Department of Buildings requires a Stationary Engineer's License to practice in the City of New York; to obtain the license one must pass a written and practical exam and have at least five years' experience working directly under a licensed stationary engineer, or one year if in possession of a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Holders of the Stationary Engineer's License primarily work in large power generation facilities, such as cogeneration power plants, peaking units, and large central heating and refrigeration plants (CHRPs). For the State of California, Stationary Engineers are the State of California Military Department's sole source of Airfield Lighting and Repair.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "ABSA Heritage". Alberta Boilers Safety Association.
  2. ^ "George Stephenson". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. ^ "Henry Ford Biography". Ford Corporate.
  4. ^ "Standardization of Power Engineers Examinations Committee (SOPEEC)".
  5. ^ "Power Engineers Regulation (Safety Codes Act)" (PDF). Province of Alberta.
  7. ^ "Certifications en Mécanique de Machines Fixes" (PDF). Emploi-Québec.
  8. ^ "Boiler and Pressure Vessel Safety Program - Licensing - Stationary Steam Engineers". Government of Maine.