Has financial disaster been averted in Canada’s oil and gas industry?
‘Disaster’ is all relative. Let’s just say 2019 is going to be a difficult year following a tough set of recent circumstances.
One thing we know is that the recent episode of bargain-basement commodity prices—triggered by a regional glut of oil and gas looking for a pipeline to call home, combined with low international oil prices—has wounded this year’s outlook for conventional oilfield activity. That’s the segment of the business, outside the oil sands, where two-thirds of the industry’s spending typically occurs.
Beyond the tight orbit of Fort McMurray’s oil sands, in the broader oil and gas fields of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan, the overt indicator of sectoral health is drilling activity. Like counting cars on a freeway, you know the economy is bad if there are only a few commuters on the road.
It’s looking pretty bad for the first quarter. We’re entering the peak ‘rush hour’ of the winter drilling season with only 180 bits turning on active rigs. The level of activity is feeling a lot like the depths of 2016, the lowest New Year’s entry in decades (see Figure 1).
For comparison, last year at this time the rig count was climbing toward a more stable February peak of 348. But stability is hardly in the energy dictionary right now. Volatile discounts, weak international prices, illiquid equity markets and a never-ending pipeline drama has spooked those with money and hollowed those without. It’s pretty simple really: No confidence plus no money equals no drilling. That’s what was happening late last year.
Having said that, the very real potential for fiscal disaster was averted. To clear the late ’18 production glut, the government of Alberta stepped into the market with a mandatory oil curtailment (8.7 percent across the board).
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…