Petroleum Services Association of Canada president Mark Salkeld attended a petroleum industry conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer on Tuesday.

Petroleum Services Association of Canada president Mark Salkeld attended a petroleum industry conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer on Tuesday.

Mood upbeat despite labour shortage

Mark Salkeld describes a scene that seems more science fiction than technological fact.

Mark Salkeld describes a scene that seems more science fiction than technological fact.

An engineer in a special theatre room guides a wellbore through a holograph-like image of an underground formation, demonstrating to an oil company official how the hydrocarbons therein might best be extracted.

“They’re standing right inside the customer’s formation and they can move the formation, they can steer the (drill) bit and they can help them design their wells,” said Salkeld, who is president and CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada.

Such advanced production practices are helping energy companies further develop mature reservoirs like the Pembina oil field near Red Deer, he said.

“If you get a wavy formation, they can steer that drill bit for perfect positioning.”

Salkeld, and about 250 representatives of companies in the upstream petroleum industry, are in Red Deer this week for PSAC’s spring conference. The mood is upbeat, with crude oil trading at more than $100 a barrel and indications strong that 2012 will be another busy year.

“Land sales are on the increase,” said Salkeld, noting that revenues collected by the Alberta government for conventional oil and gas rights during the past fiscal year should be comparable to the record $2.66 billion earned by the province in 2010-11.

“That’s one of our prime indicators.”

Those sales reveal a strong emphasis on oil and liquid-rich gas plays, he added, as producers shy away from low-priced natural gas.

“Gas is still a very, very sad story,” said Salkeld.

The more positive theme are the improved production techniques on the oil side. In addition to the accuracy with which reservoirs can be mapped, directional drilling and multi-stage fracturing is enabling producers to extract their contents more efficiently.

Salkeld also noted how multiple wells are being drilled from a single pad site. Equipment and manpower can be concentrated there, and are not required to move as frequently.

“If they can get all their equipment into the location and not have to move for a month or two while they work over all the wells they drilled, that just extends the season for us.”

The surface footprint is also much smaller for the underground area accessed, he added.

In 1970, said Salkeld, about 20 acres of land had to be cleared for a vertical well that would provide only 0.8 of an acre of below-surface access. Thirty years later, a multi-well pad site requires just 0.2 acres of surface area but can reach more than 80 square miles below.

Challenges do exist, with access to skilled labour key among these.

A year ago, the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada issued a report that projected the domestic petroleum industry would need 39,000 to 130,000 additional workers by 2020. Salkeld doubts the situation has improved, noting that a lot of oilfield equipment sat idle this winter because there weren’t people to operate them.

Heavy duty mechanics, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators and welders are all in short supply, as are rig managers and oilfield supervisors.

PSAC is exploring ways to ease the crunch, he said, including identifying underutilized skilled labour pools in Canada and abroad.

“We’re looking domestically in Canada first, North America kind of second and then globally third.”

Regulatory constraints are another industry concern, said Salkeld. He doesn’t object to strict controls on drilling and production, but is frustrated by duplication and long timelines.

Salkeld also said the Canadian petroleum industry needs to better communicate to the public that it’s acting appropriately and responsibly.

“That’s something we’ve fallen short on and need to work on constantly.”

PSAC’s spring conference began Monday and wraps up today. It’s being held at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Environment Canada says rain Tuesday evening will turn to snow. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Expect wet snow Tuesday night central Alberta

Heavy wet snow could accumlate with the potential for broken tree branches

Fraser Health registered nurse Kai Kayibadi draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. To reduce long lines and wait times the first 1,000 Surrey residents to arrive at the neighbourhood clinic on both Monday and Tuesday will receive wristbands and a same-day appointment. The effort is in addition to the provincial vaccination plan which is now open for bookings to anyone who is 18 years and older. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canadian COVID-19 vaccine shows promising results in Phase 2 clinical trial

Phase 3 trial is the final step before Health Canada can decide whether to approve the vaccine

The Red Deer Hospice is holdings its second-annual butterfly release fundraiser. (Black Press file photo).
Release a butterfly and help Red Deer Hospice Society

Butterflies can be purchased for $25 to help hospice programs

An incredible closing ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (File photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games)
2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society hands out $655,000

35 not-for-profit groups across Alberta to get money

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, exile Tibetans use the Olympic Rings as a prop as they hold a street protest against the holding of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in Dharmsala, India. Groups alleging human-rights abuses in China are calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which is sure to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors, and sports federations. A coalition of activists representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others, issued a statement Monday, May 17, 2021 calling for the “full boycott,” eschewing lesser measures like “diplomatic boycotts" and negotiations with the IOC or China. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia, File)
AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Canada's Eric Lamaze riding Fine Lady 5 during the CP International competition at the Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Canada's most decorated show jumper has withdrawn from consideration for the Tokyo Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse questions a foul call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, April 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Nurse says it was the COVID-19 outbreak in March that spiked his team's chances for a post-season run.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris O'Meara
Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Danielle Goyette speaks to reporters during a press conference in Toronto on Friday, November 10, 2017. Goyette has been named director of player development for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and their American Hockey League affiliate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) falls on Nashville Predators center Yakov Trenin (13) during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) watches the puck get past Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) on a shot by Washington Capitals right wing Garnet Hathaway during the first period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday, May 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Toronto Maple Leafs former players Darryl Sittler, centre, Johnny Bower, centre right, are joined by Ted Kennedy's son Mark for a ceremonial puck drop with Montreal Canadiens' Andrei Markov, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf, right, before NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Most Read