Alberta company diversifies oil field business amid challenging times for energy sector

Click to play video: 'Alberta man tries to keep oil field business afloat amid challenging times for energy sector'
Alberta man tries to keep oil field business afloat amid challenging times for energy sector
WATCH ABOVE: As dire times continue for the oil industry, people in the sector are trying to adapt to survive. Taz Dhaliwal speaks to an industry expert to get some insight into what's next – Apr 28, 2020

An Alberta man who manages a Taber, Alta. company that normally works in the oil fields is demonstrating how versatility is helping to keep his workers employed.

“For over 41 years, we have been in the oil field, construction and maintenance, plant construction, pipeline construction and [now] we’ve kind of diversified into environmental [projects by] reclaiming leases and general maintenance,” John Lemisko, the manager of Taber Excavating, said.

It comes as Alberta’s oil and gas sector continues to face a dire outlook. According to one expert, the COVID-19 pandemic, in conjunction with an oilI price war and some environmental concerns added to the mix all contributed to the collapse in prices.

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Cam Matthews, chair of the Society of Petroleum Canada and C-FER Fellow, says the current state of the industry is “grim” and it’s something that’s being felt across the entire industry.

“Trouble spots for the service side — where we’re essentially looking at lay-offs, and big cutbacks, even bankruptcies in many cases — that part of the industry’s been hit very hard,” Matthews said.

He believes oil prices will go back up when the pandemic comes to an end, however says when that will happen is the big unknown. He said it could take several more months or possibly even close to a year.

Matthews goes on to say that many fossil fuel energy projects have either come to a halt or been terminated, in which case the help of engineers will still be needed to ensure this transition is done in an environmentally responsible way.

“The society of petroleum engineers is trying to focus on making sure people have continued access to technical resources and training and support… basically, to help members transition through this tough time.”.

Lemisko said in his case, having an array of projects for his employees to work in the agriculture sector have helped his company survive as well.

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Along with maintaining existing pipelines and dismantling sites for companies that are dissolving, cleaning up orphaned oil wells is something he would like to take part in.

“The federal government has put in $1.7 billion into basically getting rid of a lot of these properties and so we hope to get into some of that as well,” Lemisko said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement in mid-April, saying his government is investing the money to clean up orphan wells in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan to keep people working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau said the goal is to create immediate jobs in these provinces.

Although Lemisko says it remains to be seen whether his company will be among the contractors tasked with those clean-up efforts as that process is ongoing. He added that he’s been told environmental firms will be overseeing the process of cleaning orphaned oil wells.

Files from Caley Ramsay

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