By Mark Scholz
Reflecting on 2017
“Alberta’s beleaguered energy sector is making a comeback,” the CBC declared at the end of November. To be sure, things are looking up after a tough few years for companies and workers at each end of the Canadian oil and gas supply chain and all points between. However, the country’s drillers and well-servicing contractors could be forgiven for feeling less-than-optimistic about the immediate future.
CAODC members are still struggling with flat day rates and the Association’s forecasting committee says that overall fleet totals will be down slightly for 2018. In some respects, our industry has become a victim of its own powers to innovate. Walking rig technology and bigger pumps and circulating systems have become the order of the day. For companies that can afford to invest in it, this technology means more wells can be drilled in less time. However, those who cannot afford to upgrade their equipment in a low-price environment are struggling.
Our role at the CAODC is to do what we can to help member companies weather the storm, whether that means creating business opportunities through networking, sharing best practices, or lobbying government on behalf of Canada’s drilling and well-servicing company owners, and those they employ. This year, much of our focus has been on the lack of market access for Canada’s oil and gas products, an issue that affects every oil and gas worker in Canada, as well as countless other industries and professionals across the country.
Pipeline capacity in Canada is currently insufficient, which will lead to more crude shipped by rail in 2018 and beyond if construction does not begin on new export projects. Western Canadian crude supply is set to grow by nearly 40 percent in the coming decade and we will continue to see depressed prices, comparatively unsafe transportation, and lack of investment, if governments at all levels do not take a leadership role and facilitate the construction of new and safe pipeline infrastructure. The CAODC has been calling on our policymakers to stand behind approved projects in the face of the pushback of a vocal minority and to create a healthy investment environment to support these projects. Protracted and cumbersome approvals processes are threatening our national prosperity and this issue must be remedied if Canada is to reach its full potential as an ethical, environmentally responsible and innovative energy producer.
We are slowly seeing Canadians from all walks of life wake up to the realization that our most important industries are intrinsically integrated. From refinery workers in New Brunswick to construction workers in Ontario to marine pilots in British Columbia, folks that care about their own livelihoods and our country’s future prosperity have begun to contact their elected officials to let them know just how much is at stake. We hope to see a good deal more of this in 2018, and we thank those who have already taken the time to speak up in favour of access to new markets.
With world oil prices stabilizing and some of our best and brightest heading back to work, it’s time to re-focus our efforts on planning for the future. Labour issues, as well as the aforementioned market access uncertainties loom large on the horizon. However, we have a great deal to be proud of in terms of our resilience, our equipment, and most, importantly, our people. They are the ones who have seen our industry through a few really tough years and they will be the reason we bounce back, albeit in a more measured way than we have seen in years past.