Although I continue to be cautious when predicting the future, the signs are that we are headed into a more balanced market. Our Q-1 is off to a great start and it seems as though the worst is now behind us, but we won’t know for sure until the end of Q-2 (June or July).
Some positive signs which lead to my cautious optimism include the following:
• We are now starting to see natural gas supply side declines in the US.
• Natural Gas supply in the WCSB is down 10% compared to last year.
• Demand for natural gas is up in both Canada and the US.
• Regulatory and environmental issues will likely lead to increased costs in the Marcellus and Haynesville shale gas plays, resulting in lower drilling activity in the Eastern US.
• Oil prices are above $75/bbl, and expectations are in the $70 to $85 range for the remainder of the year. This will lend itself to a robust service and maintenance revenue stream.
• Oil drilling activity levels are now at healthy levels. We are anticipating continued drilling activity in SE and SW Sask. Our Lloydminster branch is now beginning to see an uptick in activity levels due to heavy oil economics. We are experiencing some good revenue opportunities in SW Manitoba.
• Drilling and completion costs have come down, resulting in an economic model that will support drilling programs at lower commodity prices. Junior E&P’s are figuring out how to make money at $5 gas.
• Our service and maintenance revenue stream has now returned to pre-crash levels and we feel that this will continue.
• Although drilling rig activity in the U.S. and Canada is still down approximately 50% compared to one year ago, the rig count is beginning to climb.
• Through the downturn in 2009, we have done a very good job of expanding our customer base.
Expectations are that the WCSB will see 10,000 to 11,000 wells drilled in 2010 (versus approximately 9000 wells drilled in 2009), and that drilling levels will eventually get back to a range of 11,000 to 14,000 wells drilled per year.
The number of natural gas wells completed per quarter should be much more linear in 2010 than it was in 2009. Only 400 natural gas wells were completed
in Q-3 of 2009, which led to the worst quarter that I have experienced in my career. In 2009, 3200 oil wells were completed. This trend was linear throughout the year. We are expecting increased activity for oil well completions this year.
That being said, 2010 remains a wild card. For the first time in decades, there will be more oil wells drilled than gas. Natural gas drilling activity levels for the next 12 months will be moderate at current prices. We will not see a substantive increase in activity levels until the price moves above $6.00/mmcf, which we anticipate will be well into the third quarter of 2010 at the earliest.
Also, keep in mind that service company capacity is down more than 20% from the peak of 2007.