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Civil/Structural Engineer entering the Transmission-Substation Industry

Civil/Structural Engineer entering the Transmission-Substation Industry

Civil/Structural Engineer entering the Transmission-Substation Industry


I am a structural engineer with oil & gas experience designing refineries (steel structures & reinforced concrete foundations). I recently got a job in the power & utilities (EHV) industry working as a civil/structural engineer for a Transmission-Substation department.

I wanted to get some information on structural engineering for Transmission & Substation work. Has any one else made this switch from oil & gas to power & utilities (EHV) industry? If so what are the similarities regarding the structural engineering? What are the differences between the two industries?

I have found some information regarding foundation design for transformers but not much else. I am also aware of a program called LPile, but i have never used it before. In oil & gas I used STAAD quite often.

Are there any books, websites, or any information that would be helpful for someone new to this field. I am just wondering what type of information I should be looking into to hit the ground running. Any comments or suggestions in the right direction would help.

RE: Civil/Structural Engineer entering the Transmission-Substation Industry

I assume your company probably uses PLS-CADD software since they have about 90% market share. Learn TOWER and PLS-POLE. I've been in the industry since 1973 and have seen a lot. Get ASCE 10, ASCE 74, and ASCE 113 and read them. STAAD will be useful in the design of substation frames but a lot of them can be done in PLS-POLE, but it will depend on what FE structural software your company uses. We use GTSTRUDL for frames. The tough thing to learn is connection design. The programs can size the members but you have to be able to design the connections and there are no standards from the AISC steel book. In the T-Line world, not many parts of lattice towers have framing like the oil and gas stuff.

Good luck in your career.

I have been called "A storehouse of worthless information" many times.

RE: Civil/Structural Engineer entering the Transmission-Substation Industry

Thank you transmissiontowers for your input. It is very helpful.

Since you have been in this industry for quite some time, how stable is it? How is it in terms of compensations and career growth/opportunities?

RE: Civil/Structural Engineer entering the Transmission-Substation Industry

Everybody needs more power and the aging T-Line system will need more investment for many years. The Oil industry probably pays way more than what the utility industry does but you typically do not get laid off when the price of oil goes down and projects are cancelled. I started in 1973 for $700 per month as a technologist (4 yr BS degree) before I got my engineering degree, but times were tough then and raises have come regularly. If you really want to move up in the organization and don't mind management, then get an MBA later after a few years. I really hate the thought of employee reviews and would rather design connections. If you are lucky and can talk your employer into making a parallel career path for the technical side vs the management side.

Some Engineers may make a decent manager, but I have found that most of the good Engineers are terrible managers. It all depends on what you like to do. If you really like running numbers and solving problems, then you probably should stay in the technical side. If you really like going to meetings, drawing up budgets, telling Johnny he was 10 minutes late 2 days in a row, and telling him his 2% raise was all you could get, then go the management side.

I maintain that there should be a technical side for the superstar engineers where they can make division manager money and be the technical wizard and not have to be a guy that jumps from one meeting to another to afford to send his kids to a good college. IIRC, the government agencies like BPA have job classifications where the engineers that want to be left to do engineering, can do so. The government may pay less than private industry (it used to be that way)but that may have changed with the bloating of the government.

Good Luck

I have been called "A storehouse of worthless information" many times.

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