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Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

(OP)
I am Mechanical Engineer and have 7 yrs exp in Thermal Power Plant Engineering Design. I recently came in US, can any experts help what are future scope for Power Plant jobs in US..? how they earn here..? sometimes, I feel there may be less scope so thinking about changing field either in oil and gas sector or in product design, development..!! -- Help plz
Replies continue below

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RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Some companies still operate power plants, and are looking at options for newer plants. These will mostly be gas turbans, or combined cycle plants.

I don't know about the mechinical side of plants, except the shaft of the generator turns at different speeds depending on the power source.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Most forecasts concerning future electrical power demand in the US are all increasing so much that nobody really has any idea about how all the new plants will be paid for. I believe that the "smart grid" is a software patch attempting to deal with the inevitable brown outs that will occur, as the lack in capacity becomes more evident day by day.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's not safe ... make it that way.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

The predictions are that electric cars will increase demand so much. But with the sales of electric cars at the current levels, it's not going to happen as fast as predicted.

The other side of the equasion is for demand to rise, along with electric rates, and income not keeping up with inflation, something in the household has to drop in cost to this happen. Or this could be caused by increase in the number of households, but with the houseing slump, that dosen't appear to be happening.

So is this increased demand comming from business and manufacturing? With current export and consumption levels, this dosen't look likely.

So this great growth looks like a pipe dream. It may happen, but over a longer time than predicted.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

The OP didn't ask about future demand, he asked about present or future jobs.

One other factor that affects the power industry is that the business model is changing. When I started 40 years ago, a guaranteed ticket to a gold watch (retirement) was a job with a power company and I have known many men who had only one job (meaning one position too) for their entire career. I even knew one who restored his old car and literally drove the same car in the gate on his first day and out the gate 40 years later on his last day.

Power companies back then made money by investing in lots of high dollar equipment and having lots of staff. They made money by making a percentage on their investment.

Things have changed. It is a competitive marketplace now (in most places) and staffs have been cut to the bone and equipment is the best that low bid can buy. If you have the experience, I'd suggest you look at the companies that provided engineering services to the power industry, the Black & Veaches, the Keiwits, etc., of the world. Power companies are using them more and more because when the job is done, and the plant is built, they don't have overhead to support for the rest of the engineer's careers.

I take from the tone of your OP that you are not from the USA. Depending on where your experience is from, your overseas experience might be a marketable commodity to the right firm that is seeking to do business in your former country. Give that concept some thought.

rmw

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

rmw, are you saying that power engineering jobs do not have a relationship to demand for power. I would say that some kind of relationship most certainly exists. Whether it's the power companies themselves, or the power company's engineering contractors that hire engineers wasn't distinctly asked either.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's not safe ... make it that way.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

The power industry is changing no doubt. And demand driven generation may cause a greater number of plants in the future, just as retirement of older plants. However the newer plants do require less of a labor force. But that force will have to be much better educated to preform the tasks. The so called simple work will most likely be farmed out, except for a few jobs at each plant.
The problem is not the labor force requirements, but the background training required. It is much easer to take extended outages, and have an army of low tech workers preform the work on a cold plant, than the training to work on a live plant.

Yes there is a future in power production, and consulting for power production. But you need to be all in or it is just a part time job. The jobs will be fewer, and require more skills.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Yes, BigInch, I am saying that the demand is increasing (while not as rapidly as in the past, but it is growing) but the workforce is falling, both at the Utiliity level and at the EPC/Consultant level. Those firms are disappearing like flies too.

And, it's fixing to get worse. Many large power stations, principally coal fired ones in the present political climate have been cancelled or delayed, and the plants that are being built are cookie cutter designs based on CCGT or just CT technology all of which use natural gas fuel where they all look the same and contain mostly the same major components. Very little engineering needed for that.

It is a different world, but a world that does continue to exist and have a future if the OP can get into it.

I have worked in or closely associated with the power industry most of my career and have found that electricity is one commodity that can't be made overseas and shipped in. Those are jobs that can't be exported, although the engineering can and much of it has been.

Based on the events of today (mahor grid failures causing blackout that the word massive seems miniscule to describe) and this generating (fairly hot summer in our country) season, I suspect that there will be a spurt of new power plant construction starting next year and completing the year after.

Cranky108, I think you articulated the situation well too.

rmw

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Well.. the prospects are certainly better in an increasing demand market than a falling one.
I can tell you from oil & gas experience that the project management and higher end engineering jobs will stay local, whereas the routine engineering grunt work is what is being farmed out to ... wherever.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's not safe ... make it that way.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Part of farming out work is farming out the design and construction of equipment, which isen't new. Large pieces of equipment, transformers, switchgear, boilers, etc. has been farmed out for a long time. What is new is equipment from other countries. The issue is being sure the equipment meets the standards or specifications.
I see fewer factory, or equipment acceptance trips being made. But I have seen a few consultants that will do that for a cliant.

It becomes a bad day when the equipment arrives, and it isen't what was specified. The project is delayed, and they start looking for someone local to blame. In the past there was time built into a project for these sort of problems. Now everyone wants just in time delivery.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

That's pretty much routine when working in an international environment. We don't get all that much of anything made locally... in any given country... ever.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's not safe ... make it that way.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Without to much details, I've seen eqipment that was tested overseas, but little did we know it was not full power tested, because the country it was manufactured in was not at 60 Hz. The test equipment did handle 60 Hz, but not at the full power rating of the equipment we were buying.
No factory acceptance was completed because there was concerns how the PUC would view the trip.

So when the equipment was put into full power output, the internal DC bus failed due to the high voltage. Then the lawers got involved. It was ugly.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Not only testing. You have to devote a lot of effort from the beginning, or even before the beginning, checking out a potential vendor's administration, financial capacities, QA/QC and testing routines, design capability, where they source their raw materials, what mfgr process is used and how their shop fabrication techniques stack up, even how well they listen to shipping and handling specs, all of that best accomplished as a pre-bid qualification. Then continue checking and double checking while the order is in their hands.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's not safe ... make it that way.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

Big, I can see that. We don't do all that with the larger manufacturers. We specify performance, and require test results.
The problem is on new types of equipment, we don't always know what the results are supose to look like.
With transformers, concrete and switchgear we do.

The issue is either design, or manufacturing can cause problems, and we don't specificly know how to spot those. We do know what most test reports are supose to say. The bottom line is performance for us.

We also rely on industry standards, and word of mouth on bad products.


RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

A really good reason to try to keep the design & fab very near, where you can reach out and touch it on any given day.
With those kinds of unknowns, I would think that you'd want to build a small pilot device nearby, test the design well, and then try to scale it up. You might be able to take a known risk after that on a foreign vendor, but not on an unproven design. I wouldn't like risking design and production for an innovative product on an unknown vendor.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's not safe ... make it that way.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

(OP)
Thank you all for your response... Thanks to rmv and cranky108.. and suggestion made by rmv.

just one thing, currently I am working in engineering service industry and have past experience in the same, design and consulting/engineering services to power plant industry/EPC firm.. Here I found very few jobs in Engineering services to power plant. I understand the point made by you all that most relates to my question.. But as you said there will be increasing power demand OR replacement of old plants with new one.. Considering present scenario how my scope would be in the same design and engineering services to power plant/industry....? I guess most of consulting and engineering firms are also outsourcing those paper works but few companies say Sargent and Lundy still doing design work in coal,gas and nuclear power engineering. As far as Mechanical Engineering concern now a days in US what would be the best jobs from scope, opportunity and salary point of view..?

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

As you can see my background is not mechanical. My background is electric power, from the generator to the customer. The mechanical engineers that I work around are either in gas distribution, or in power production.

The types of generation that I know about are somewhat different. Hydroelectric, steam, gas turbans, photoelectric, Internal combustion , and wind. I would think you might want to avoid hydroelectric, photoelectric, internal combustion, and wind. That leaves steam, and gas turbans amd depending on how you think gas will work out will give you direction.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

With all the shale gas supplies coming online now, I wouldn't stray too far away from gas driven generators. Gas prices have been dropping for some time now and I don't think they will even begin to firm up anytime soon. That's going to present a very attractive, cheap, long-term, power source, if ... they continue allowing hydraulic fracturing to go on as it has been lately.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's not safe ... make it that way.

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

(OP)
ok so that means Gas driven power plants like gas turbines, combined cycle etc - the design and engineering services/consultancy would be preferable which the same thing currently I am doing now.... OR in product development/design side it could be say Gas turbines, Gas Engines etc..

RE: Power Plant Engineering Future in USA

If oil prices stay up or go up, we will also see more gas production just as a sideline of that oil production.

However as low as gas prices are, I don't see us switching our fuel from coal to gas in our convertable steam plant. But I do see more usage of our combined cycle plant.

My prediction is if gas becomes cheeper, we will export more. If enviromental regulations make coal more expencive, we will export more, and burn less.

There are many other factors in the mix than are unknowns. Like the fact that the middle east can export gas to the US and give away the gas and make a profit from the derivitives. This maynot be possible in other countries because of the lack of sepration plants.

The biggest unknowns are goverment regulations skewing the markets for any and all the fuels.

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