December 31, 2015 8:45 pm
Updated: December 31, 2015 10:12 pm

Uncertain future looms over Alberta’s energy sector in 2016

WATCH ABOVE: After a tumultuous year of sliding oil prices and layoffs, Alberta’s oil and gas sector hopes to rebound in 2016. Tom Vernon reports.

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EDMONTON- Alberta’s oil and gas workers will be looking to 2016 with both hope and uncertainty as 2015 ends with the price of oil still sitting at below $40 U.S. a barrel.

“(It’s) probably one of the toughest years we’ve had in my time,” said Greg Jorgenson, vice-president of the Canada region for Tuboscope, an oilfield service company. According to Jorgenson, his company’s business was down by about 40 per cent in 2015 and he expects that to get even worse in 2016.

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“When we see them cancelling major projects and drilling programs and laying off mass amounts of people to go with that, that just tells us that they’re probably not going back to full operating mode any time soon,” said Jorgenson.

The slumping oil prices have prompted Alberta’s NDP government to say it may need to re-evaluate some of its campaign spending promises.

“The situation with commodities is dire,” Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said in December, adding that wasn’t just the case for Alberta but “all of Canada.”

Thousands of Albertans have lost their jobs in the energy sector over the past 12 months and while there’s still no guarantee prices won’t continue to slide, at least on analyst thinks Alberta’s already hit rock bottom.

“A slow and tepid recovery is probably what people should be looking for,” said Josef Schachter, president of Schachter Asset Management.

Schachter, an energy sector analyst, said he believes oil prices may have finally bottomed out and points out demand is on the rise just as North American oil production is set to slow down.

“When we start seeing North American production falling materially and we see the inventories on a worldwide basis start to come down, then you could be looking at $60 U.S. oil, potentially in winter 2016-2017, so a year from now,” he said.

Schachter said a return to $100 U.S. per barrel prices may be a bit optimistic though: “The most optimistic scenario I can have for $100 (U.S.) oil is 2018, and that requires a lot of under-investment by OPEC and the decline rates to kick in.”

Jorgenson, however, said he’s not certain the worst is over yet.

“I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I’m not even sure we can see the light at the end of the tunnel yet.”

A review of Alberta’s energy royalty regime is expected to be released some time in 2016. Premier Rachel Notley had pledged to commission a royalty review during her election campaign and later promised that a panel report on the issue, along with the government’s response, would be ready before the end of 2015.

In December, Notley said the review would be delayed to ensure the government has the time to respond appropriately.

-with files from Tom Vernon

© 2015 Shaw Media

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