Estevan – With the acquisition of Canyon Technical Services Ltd. by Trican Well Service Ltd. this past June 2, it was inevitable that some efficiencies would be found where there was duplication. In Estevan, both companies had a base. Soon, there will be just one, but which one has yet to be determined.
Rob Cox, vice president of operations with Trican, told Pipeline News on Aug. 16, “We haven’t made the final decisions, but our plan is to trim our operation down to one facility. We don’t have a big enough operation between the two to warrant the two different bases, so we will be deciding which base we will be moving to. But that decision hasn’t been made yet. There’s still a couple of things we’re looking at, as for what is more efficient for us.”
Both facilities have cement facilities. Canyon did not run acid out of Estevan.
“Canyon supported the Estevan market out of Medicine Hat. We had some equipment there, but really no infrastructure to speak of,” he said, with reference to a frac fleet. Canyon did have one in Estevan initially, but no longer.
Trican has a frac spread in Estevan, but Cox said, “We are in the midst of moving that to Medicine Hat. Most of the people came from Medicine Hat, and they kind of like to work from home.”
Roughly four years ago, there were seven different frac companies with frac spreads in southeast Saskatchewan, principally in Estevan. They included B.J. Services (which became Baker Hughes), Halliburton, Trican, Millennium Stimulation Services, Canyon Technical Services Calfrac (Bienfait) and Element Technical Services (Carlyle). With the merger of Canyon and Trican, that leaves just Trican and Element left.
“I can’t speak to why the other companies have left. If you’re in the fracturing business today, you know you’re going to be on the road most of the time, so it doesn’t really matter where you’re based out of. Those companies that are focused on cementing, like us, we want to be close to the southeast Saskatchewan market. But we can service the southeast Saskatchewan market from Medicine Hat because it’s usually longer duration work,” Cox said.
“We re going to work out of southeast Saskatchewan, still,” Cox said. “We’re not moving away from our clients. We’re allowing the people that live in Medicine Hat and work in Estevan to go back and live in Medicine Hat. They’ll be based out of Medicine Hat, so on the days they’re not working, they’ll be at home, but they days they are working, they’ll be in Estevan, just as if they are based in Estevan.”
The number of frac workers Trican had based in Estevan was in the high-20s, he explained.
“We’ll continue to run cement and acid out of Estevan, just not frac people,” Cox said. “We will continue to operate out of Estevan. It’s a good business for us, in Estevan, and fracking was too, but we want people to be able to work from home.”
There is a certain pattern of communities and their specialties. There are a lot of service rigs based in Oxbow, Estevan and Weyburn, for instance. When it comes to frac workers, most that work in southeast Saskatchewan originate from Medicine Hat. Attracting those workers to Estevan was an insurmountable challenge for Millennium, according to its founder, Mike Heier, when it shut down operations.
Trican has some housing rented, and will use that as needed. “But a lot of the work we do is far enough from Estevan that they have to overnight in hotels anyways,” he said.
A year ago Trican suspended its Brandon base, consolidating frac operations in the region to Estevan at that time. Brandon had only opened a few years earlier.
“Part of it is frac crews today are not six guys. Frac crews today are 15 to 20 guys. To put a full frac crew together, you’re looking at somewhere between 42 and 48 people for a single 24 hour frac crew, as opposed a service rig crew or a wireline crew, which is a lot smaller. To run a bigger frac crew, you pretty much have to go to the bigger centres. Now, Estevan is not small, by any stretch, but it is also competitive for oilfield, and people who live in Medicine Hat want to live in Medicine Hat.
“We’re hiring, and everybody’s hiring. Every division, but also, all our competition is hiring as well. Most of the work is still up in the Montney and Duvernay areas, from Red Deere to Fort St. John, but Grande Prairie is where most of the work is,” Cox said. “There’s still a fair bit of work out east.”
One of the Estevan facilities is leased, the other is owned, but he wouldn’t say which is which. Cox expects them to act on this decision by mid-September.
“We’re not abandoning Estevan in any way. We’re allowing people who live in Medicine Hat to spend more time at home. But the Estevan market is still key to us, and we plan on being there 10, 20, 30 years from now,” he concluded.