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National Renewable Energy Laboratory Science Biochemical Pilot Plant Operations in Golden, Colorado

Posting Title

Science Biochemical Pilot Plant Operations



CO - Golden


Position Type



Hours Per Week



Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Protocols

Employment at NREL is contingent upon your compliance with all NREL and DOE safety protocols and mitigation efforts directed at the COVID-19 pandemic. At present, NREL requires all employees to be immunized against COVID-19. Upon hire, new employees must be prepared to provide proof of vaccination on your first day of employment. All employees must have completed vaccinations by November 1, 2021.

Working at NREL

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Golden, Colorado is the nation's primary laboratory for research and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

From day one at NREL, you’ll connect with coworkers driven by the same mission to save the planet. By joining an organization that values a supportive, inclusive, and flexible work environment, you’ll have the opportunity to engage through our eight employee resource groups, numerous employee-driven clubs, and learning and professional development classes.

NREL supports inclusive, diverse, and unbiased hiring practices that promote creativity and innovation. By collaborating with organizations that focus on diverse talent pools, reaching out to underrepresented demographics, and providing an inclusive application and interview process, our Talent Acquisition team aims to hear all voices equally. We strive to attract a highly diverse workforce and create a culture where every employee feels welcomed and respected and they can be their authentic selves.

Job Description

NREL has a full-time opening for a Pilot Plant Operations Manager in the Catalytic Carbon Transformation and Scaleup Center to help manage the Biochemical Pilot Plant at NREL’s Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility. The successful candidate will work with both the Pilot Plant project leader, the Line Manager and project PIs to coordinate/manage daily staff assignments, safety processes, maintenance and upkeep activities, and may lead a variety of industry partnerships. The candidate will also participate in process research and development (R&D) activities by supporting research to develop, improve, integrate, scale up, and demonstrate biochemical-based unit operations involved in converting lignocellulosic biomass (fibrous plant matter) to liquid transportation fuels, chemical intermediates, or bioproducts. The range of unit operations includes comminution (milling) and feed handling, pretreatment, enzymatic and/or thermochemical hydrolysis, separations (for example, solid liquid separation or dewatering by centrifugation, decanting, evaporation, filtration, etc.), biological or catalytic conversion of mixed biomass sugars, and product recovery-related separations (centrifugation, distillation, filtration, etc.). The successful candidate is capable of 1) managing and coordinating multiple plant activities to maximize productivity with strong organizational and leadership skills; 2) performing and managing all work in accordance with NREL's stringent safety and environmental standards; and 3) promoting a safe, supportive working environment and a culture of continuous improvement.

Job Description and Duties:

The Pilot Plant Operations Manager helps manage the 27,000 sq. ft Biochemical Pilot Plant located at NREL. The plant is designed for researchers and industry partners to test a variety of biochemical conversion processes and technologies. This position requires a person able to direct, multi-task, and be flexible in a dynamic work environment with teams consisting of engineers and technicians and safety and facility personnel to ensure maximum plant effectiveness, while maintaining adherence to good safety and housekeeping practices.

Specific job responsibilities include:

  • Coordinate daily plant activities with plant staff and project leads (those responsible for executing research activities using pilot plant capabilities) to ensure resources are available as needed to complete work addressing potential equipment bottlenecks, lack of available staff, or unique safety concerns.

  • Manage and ensure necessary documents are completed prior to executing work including job briefings, safe work permits, etc. and/or experimental plans for research projects. In the future, this activity may transition to a work authorization and control process.

  • Manage plant task and maintenance lists (via SharePoint system) assigning activities to staff and then tracking progress toward completion.

  • Initiate, manage, or assign new plant improvement efforts or projects, which requires interactions with safety, facility, and procurement personnel.

  • Manage plant operational programs (calibration, change management, return to service, maintenance, etc.) ensuring these programs are fully implemented and followed.

  • Manage the plant’s maintenance and upkeep budget and control cost as needed.

  • Regularly interface with and provide quarterly reports on various plant activities to the Pilot Plant project leader.

  • Oversee pilot plant safety and promote a safe, supportive working environment, which has the following elements.

  • Perform daily plant floor walks to stay aware of developing safety and housekeeping issues.

  • Provide oversight and guidance to Designative Area Representatives (DAR, person responsible for overseeing safety and plant housekeeping in their assigned area) to ensure this function is adequately performed.

  • Ensure all work performed in the plant follows the plant’s high-level safe operating procedure, which documents protocols for all plant operations and activities including training (classes and on-floor operations) and safety management (e.g., process changes, operating procedures, repair plans, etc.).

  • Effectively manage personnel work assignments ensuring adequate staff training and cross-training is achieved.

  • Act as the primary interface with the ES&H point of contact providing a conduit for strong safety practices.

  • Attend all plant safety inspections and help DARs or others to quickly address any issues that need to be resolved.


Basic Qualifications

Relevant PhD . Or, relevant Master's Degree and 3 or more years of experience . Or, relevant Bachelor's Degree and 5 or more years of experience .


Additional Required Qualifications

The following are considered essential for the position. The job level at which the successful candidate is hired will be based on candidate experience and the extent to which preferred qualifications are met

  • Effective, adaptable learner and communicator

  • Demonstrated organizational and leadership skills

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

  • Ability to establish effective and professional working relationships in a team environment, interacting with diverse types of engineers, scientists, and technicians

  • High level of safety awareness and experience practicing safe behavior and promoting and managing a safe work environment

Additional preferred qualifications for this position include:

  • Knowledge of various biomass conversion unit operations

  • Basic knowledge of electricity and some electrical skills

  • Previous experience operating pilot scale equipment including high-pressure reactors, bioreactors, centrifuges, etc.

  • Experience mechanically disassembling and reassembling mechanical equipment and troubleshooting mechanical issues

  • Previous experience managing people/processes in chemical processing plant setting

  • Demonstrates broad understanding and wide application of engineering technical procedures, principles, theories and concepts in the field.

  • General knowledge of other related disciplines.

  • Demonstrates leadership in one or more areas of team, task or project lead responsibilities.

  • Experience in management of projects.

  • Strong writing, interpersonal and communication skills.

Preferred Qualifications


Annual Salary Range (based on full-time 40 hours per week)

Annual Salary Range: $73,900 - $133,100

Offers will typically be made in the bottom half of the listed range. NREL takes into consideration a candidate’s education, training, and experience, as well as the position's work location, expected quality and quantity of work, required travel (if any), external market and internal value, including seniority and merit systems, and internal pay alignment when determining the salary level for potential new employees. In compliance with the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, a potential new employee’s salary history will not be used in compensation decisions.

Benefits Summary

Benefits include medical, dental, and vision insurance; short- and long-term disability insurance; pension benefits; 403(b) Employee Savings Plan with employer match; life and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance; personal time off (PTO) and sick leave; paid holidays; and tuition reimbursement. NREL employees may be eligible for, but are not guaranteed, performance-, merit-, and achievement- based awards that include a monetary component. Some positions may be eligible for relocation expense reimbursement. Limited-term positions are not eligible for long-term disability or tuition reimbursement.

* Based on eligibility rules

Submission Guidelines

Please note that in order to be considered an applicant for any position at NREL you must submit an application form for each position for which you believe you are qualified. Applications are not kept on file for future positions. Please include a cover letter and resume with each position application.


EEO Policy

NREL is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard basis of age (40 and over), color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, military or veteran status, national origin/ancestry, race, religion, creed, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding), sexual orientation, and any other applicable status protected by federal, state, or local laws.

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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a leader in the U.S. Department of Energy’s effort to secure an environmentally and economically sustainable energy future. With locations in Golden and Boulder, Colorado, and a satellite office in Washington, D.C., NREL is the primary laboratory for research, development, and deployment of renewable energy technologies in the United States.

NREL is subject to Department of Energy (DOE) access restrictions. All candidates must be authorized to access the facility per DOE rules and guidance within a reasonable time frame for the specified position in order to be considered for an interview. DOE rules for site access during the interview process are the same regardless of whether the candidate is interviewed on-site, off-site, or via telephone or videoconference. Additionally, DOE contractor employees are prohibited from participating in certain Foreign Government Talent Recruitment Programs (FGTRPs). If a candidate is currently participating in an FGTRP, they will be required to disclose their participation after receiving an offer of employment and may be required to disengage from participation in the FGTRP prior to commencing employment. Any offer of employment is conditional on the ability to obtain work authorization and to be granted access to NREL by the Department of Energy (DOE). We understand that COVID-19 may have caused delays or closures at offices, consulates, and embassies. However, NREL cannot make exceptions to work authorization and access requirements, and exceptions to these requirements are not being made for COVID-19 related delays.

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