The Canadian oilfield services sector is expected to continue to suffer as it enters the summer drilling season despite recent developments such as the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and the election of a conservative government in Alberta.
In a report that forecasts flat second-quarter financial results in the industry, RBC Dominion Securities analysts say they’ve cut their 2019 rig activity and well counts for this year by between 6% and 8%.
They say the reduction reflects a slow start to the third quarter last month due to wet weather in Western Canada, along with lower producer spending due to softer commodity prices and continued government-mandated oil production curtailments in Alberta.
The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, meanwhile, says there were 146 drilling rigs working or moving in Canada on Thursday out of an available fleet of 547 rigs.
Vice-president of communications John Bayko says the average in July 2018 was 264 rigs — at about 135 jobs per rig, that means there are nearly 16,000 fewer people working in the industry now.
He says many oilfield workers have left the profession but some are working in the United States because a total of at least 29 Canadian drilling rigs have been moved there since 2017.
“We’ve seen a considerable loss of talent … whether it’s to the United States through some of our high-spec rigs moving down there or just people moving on to other industries and not coming back to the (oil)patch,” he said.
“We haven’t had steady work, whether on the drilling or the services side, for coming on five years here.”