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Packers Plus closes Estevan doors

Estevan was their first field office
Packers Plus moves out

Estevan – Back in 2010, Packers Plus was playing a key role in the Bakken boom. PetroBakken president and CEO R. Gregg Smith (who was named Saskatchewan Oilman of the Year in 2009), spoke highly of their technology at the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Forum. Crescent Point’s website featured Packers Plus illustrations, and spoke proudly of their usage of Packers Plus products. This was unusual in that oil companies very rarely single out one of their suppliers in such a manner.

In 2010, they expanded their Estevan shop substantially. They had 42 people at the time working out of it.

In early April 2016, Packers Plus closed its doors in Estevan, laying off the last of its employees.

“It was hugely disappointing for Packers Plus,” said Tess McLeod, Packers Plus’ manager for marketing and communications on April 21.

She noted Estevan was one of the company’s first shops, and it was “not an easy decision.”

“All companies have to adapt to survive,” McLeod said.

The company was founded in 2000 by Dan Themig, Ken Paltzat and Peter Krabben, opening their first office in Calgary, then Edmonton. The Estevan and Grande Prairie, Alta., service centres opened that same year, according to the company’s website. Their first system was installed in the Bakken formation in 2003.

Industry practices changed, though, not long after those heady days at the beginning of this decade. Companies that had once sang Packer Plus’ praises switched to monobores: cemented liners that did away with the pricey “string of jewels,” as some in the field called it, that were characteristic of ball-drop frac systems.

“Saskatchewan turned to a lot of coil tubing operations from open holes,” McLeod said. 

Ball drops systems were out of vogue, and coil tubing was in. Over the past two years, the funk in oil markets has hurt the entire industry. Additionally, PetroBakken (now Lightstream Resources) was their biggest client in southeast Saskatchewan in 2010. In 2009, PetroBakken’s stock was worth $34.00 a share. On April 21, as Lightstream, it was worth 32 cents, and over the last year it drilled 14 new wells in the Bakken, only one of which was in the fourth quarter, which is usually the busy the winter drilling season.

As of April, Packers Plus still had five Canadian locations (all in Alberta), 13 in the United States, and eight overseas.

The international company is still seeking to spread its wings elsewhere. On April 15, Packers Plus announced it and Schlumberger have entered into a global alliance, enabling the two oilfield service companies to become channel partners in key markets around the world.

“By combining the strength of Packers Plus’ technologies in multi-stage completions with Schlumberger’s impressive customer footprint, our two companies will be able to rapidly deliver best-in-class solutions to a wide variety of operators around the world,” said Packers Plus President, Ian Bryant.

As part of the alliance, Schlumberger will sell Packers Plus’ technology internationally and Packers Plus will sell complementary Schlumberger technology in Canada.

This is not an acquisition or merger, but a strategic alliance, according to McLeod, largely international in scope.