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Economy

Alberta companies making a go of it despite sluggish oil and gas outlook

WATCH ABOVE: A new energy forecast doesn't show much improvement for the oil and gas industry in the years ahead. As Global's Tomasia DaSilva reports, that has some energy companies looking elsewhere for business.

A new forecast from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) showing sluggish growth and energy investment isn’t deterring some Alberta energy companies from continuing to try and make a go of it.

Piston Well Services is one of them. The Red Deer company has seen a lot of up-and-down energy cycles since starting up in 1997, and it’s now doing what it can to get through the latest one.

“We kind of diversified,” business development manager David Wilkie said. “We’re looking to do some different things in different areas.”

Piston Well Services shows off its newest rig
Piston Well Services shows off its newest rig Credit: Ryan Robinson

That diversification has paid off.

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Piston just bought a brand new drilling rig — worth millions — and had its best year on record in 2018.

But it knows of many other companies that have not been as fortunate. Some have had to leave the province, even the country.

“I don’t know if it’s an exodus,” Wilkie said. “We’ve seen good people lose their jobs and move away.”

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Piston’s senior supervisor, Louis Cormier, has seen the same. He moved to Alberta from Montreal 13 years ago to work in the energy industry.

He’s had many friends who have had to leave the province, and the industry.

He said he hopes it doesn’t come to that for him.

“I love my job,” Cormier said. “I wish we could carry on. I hope the oil field is not finished.”

READ MORE: Crude oil production to reach 5.86 million barrels per day by 2035: CAPP

CAPP hopes the same thing. Its 2019 Crude Oil Forecast showed a constrained growth between 2019 and 2035 — with Canadian crude oil production increasing 1.44 per cent annually.

Capital spending in the oilsands is expected to decline for a fifth straight year to roughly $12 billion, approximately one-third of the investment seen in 2014.

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Overall, capital investment across Canada’s oil and gas industry is expected to fall to $37 billion compared to $81 billion in 2014.

“Every Canadian today is poorer because of the actions that have driven us to this point,” CAPP president and CEO Tim McMillan said. “And it only gets worse from here.”

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The group representing petroleum producers largely blames a lack of pipelines, markets and what it calls inefficient regulations for reducing the flow.

WATCH: Environment minister ‘disrespectful’ of energy industry, Canadians: CAPP CEO

McMillan said Canadians want to see energy projects go forward.

“Canadians want to see opportunities for families and their kids,” McMillan said.

Piston Well Services shows Global News newest rig at Global Petroleum Show
Piston Well Services shows Global News newest rig at Global Petroleum Show Credit: Ryan Robinson

Piston Well Services believes there are still opportunities — in Alberta and outside of Canada.

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That’s why it’s looking to the U.S. and even internationally.

“We have wheels on our rigs. We can take them anywhere,” Wilkie said.

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“I mean, this is our home. This is where we started. We’d like to stay here, but in the meantime, we’re going to look at opportunities where we need to.”

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