Town Talk: Responsibilities and qualifications of New Ulm power plant staff

Each position in the Electric Production Department has different responsibilities to keep the Power Plant operating efficiently and safely. The Power Plant operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Sixteen employees are currently required to operate the Power Plant:

4 Boiler Operators, 1 Relief Boiler Operator

4 Plant Operators, 1 Relief Plant Operator

1 Chief Engineer, 1 Assistant Chief Engineer

1 Plant Mechanic, 1 Maintenance I Worker, 1 Maintenance II Worker

1 Lab Results Analyst

This article concentrates on the Boiler Operator and Relief Boiler Operator positions.

Boiler Operators require a license to operate boilers in Minnesota. The qualifications for the Power Plant boilers require that a Boiler Operator have a minimum of a 2nd Class Boiler Engineer license, with a Provisional License with the State of Minnesota, or a 1st Class Boiler Engineer license.

The main purpose for the boilers is to generate steam. The steam is used to supply customers for District Energy (low pressure 10 lb. heating steam), and Industrial and Commercial Process customers (high pressure 140 lb. steam). The Power Plant also uses steam (either high pressure 875 lb. or 400 lb. steam) that is produced seasonally for electric generation.

The functions of the Boiler Operator and Relief Boiler Operator are very similar. The Boiler Operator is in charge of the boilers. Operating the boilers is complex and includes many responsibilities. For the boiler to operate correctly, the water must have a specific chemical composition. The Boiler Operator must monitor the hardness from the water softeners for the reverse osmosis system. The water is treated with chemicals to prevent scaling, remove chlorine, and control PH before entering the reverse osmosis system. The water from the reverse osmosis unit is then transferred to the de-aerator tank which removes remaining oxygen from the water.

From the de-aerator tank the water will be pumped into a closed feed water heater to raise the temperature for efficiency. The Operator must maintain the water level in the de-aerator tank to make sure there is enough water to supply the boiler drum. The Boiler Operator must also control the boiler drum water level, monitor changes in the system steam load, and monitor all ancillary equipment. They check all boilers and related equipment several times per shift and make all necessary adjustments to the equipment. The Boiler Operator notifies appropriate staff of equipment or operation issues.

The Boiler Operator takes hourly readings to assess the operation of the boiler and logs the readings to ensure the equipment’s performance is captured. All procedures used to operate the boilers are documented and available for the operators to review.

The Relief Boiler Operator fills in when one of the Boiler Operators is on vacation or sick. The Relief Boiler Operator also works the relief shift on Fridays, and otherwise assists with the maintenance activities in the plant.

Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to