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Looking for good news

Some people are, by nature, positive and perky people. I wish I was one of them. Try as I might, my own personal nature tends to be more on the pessimistic side rather than the optimistic.
Last month it was hard to find good news, when so many were kicking their lunchpail down the road.

Some people are, by nature, positive and perky people. I wish I was one of them.

Try as I might, my own personal nature tends to be more on the pessimistic side rather than the optimistic. This may be because I have spent my entire life intently watching (or writing) news, and most “news” tends to be negative. The one house burning down leads the nightly news, not the 10,000 houses standing just fine, thank you.

This spring marks the beginning of my eighth year writing for Pipeline News. Our paper, by its very nature, has tended to be very, very positive. We try to write about the new businesses, the expansions, the new ideas, rather than bankruptcies and layoffs. We’ve also been fortunate to be reporting on the oilpatch during very strong times. Even when the rest of Canada’s oilpatch was suffering in 2009, Saskatchewan was spared most of that. This was due to the growth of the Bakken and Saskatchewan’s steady hand at the royalty tiller when former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach was sending his province through the rapids.

This downturn, however, it’s been much, much harder to keep everything positive. Last month, our April edition, was, I hope, the bottom of the emotional roller coaster, when I had precious few good news stories to write about. Some people even asked me after reading it, “Where was the good news?”

I had nothing to give.

Not wanting to put anyone who is in a tough spot, looking for work, under the microscope, I decided to do a job search myself, based on my previous experience as an excavator operator. I came up empty.

Nearly every company I have spoken to since the beginning of the year has laid off staff.

After it went to press, I thought to myself, “I need to dig up more good news.”

I don’t have a lot this month, but I do have some.

I was fortunate enough to sit down at the Dayman Trucking table during the Estevan Oilfield Technical Society Bonspiel banquet. The Dayman family was being honored for lifetime achievement. That was a good thing to hear.

Sitting beside me was Clayton Jahn. Not only did he have an inspection company for several decades (and inspection was our focus for this upcoming May edition), but he and his stepson partner were completing a brand-new $4 million inspection plant just outside the city. That, indeed, was good news.

In fact, there was a huge smile on Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig’s face when I told him about the new plant a few weeks later. It looks like he was looking for good news, too.

Another positive discussion was the one I had with Ryan Gritzfeldt, Crescent Point Energy’s vice-president of engineering and business development for southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba. Not only are they about to move into a new multi-million field office in Carlyle, they also intend to keep busy after spring breakup.

Crescent Point has kept the lights on in much of southern Saskatchewan when other companies have been turning them off, or at least dimming them. Yes, they demanded substantial cuts in rates from their vendors. But they have kept working. From what I gathered from Gritzfeldt, they intend to keep working. It may not be at the pace of drilling they had in the first quarter of the year, when Crescent Point led the entire country, but it will likely be substantial.

That, my friends, is good news.

Lastly, MNP’s David Yager, the accounting firm’s national lead on oilfield services, stuck his neck out and declared that we have found a bottom to oil prices. If you are at the bottom, that means the next direction you are heading should be up.

In 2009 it seemed that April was rock bottom of the cycle, not only in prices, but in the collective mood of the industry. Let’s hope it’s all up from here.


Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at 

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