Saskatchewan’s drilling rig count climbs to nine, but still down

(This drilling rig, built by Totem Drilling, became a CanElson Drilling, then Trinidad Drilling, and finally Ensign Drilling rig. It spent the downturn racked in Crescent Point’s Stoughton laydown yard, and was cut up for scrap this summer, as seen on Aug. 25. Photo by Brian Zinchuk)

On Sept. 11, Rig Locator (riglocator.ca) showed nine rigs working in Saskatchewan. It was eight the previous day. That makes for a utilization rate of nine per cent, out of a total of 97 rigs within Saskatchewan. And that number has, in recent years, dropped from a steady 120 rigs in the province. Some have recently been cut up for scrap.

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Those nine rigs working are an improvement from the static three to five that were working from July 25-to Sept. 7. Drilling activity was totally flatlined at zero from spring breakup, when the COVID-19 crisis hit, until mid-July. For the past several years, Saskatchewan saw roughly 30 to 60 rigs working from May to mid-July.

While nine is an improvement, it is a shadow of even the last few years, considered downturn years, which saw an average of 40 to 55 rigs working throughout the province from late July to mid-September. To put that in perspective, from 2010-2015, there were typically 60 to 90 rigs working during that period, and in August, 2011, a record of 122 rigs were in the field at the same time.

Things aren’t much better in Alberta, where there were 38 out of 359 rigs working on Sept. 11, an 11 per cent utilization rate. In 2019, one of Alberta’s worst drilling years in recent memory, there were 93 rigs working on Sept. 12. The year before that, the number was 157.

Manitoba is showing zero rigs working out of four in the province. 

British Columbia is the only jurisdiction showing better numbers this year compared to last year. There were 14 out of 31 rigs working, for a country-leading 31 per cent utilization rate. On Sept. 12, 2019, B.C. had 12 rigs working, and on Sept. 12, 2018, the number was 17. 

Nearly all of Saskatchewan’s drilling activity since COVID-19 hit has been on the western side of the province. Only a few holes have been drilled for oil in southeast Saskatchewan, but the increase to nine rigs shows one rig, Precision Drilling Rig 195, working for Crescent Point at Huntoon, northwest of Benson.

As usual, Mosaic Canada had a rig show up at Esterhazy, Ensign Rig 689, working on potash.

In southwest Saskatchewan, helium drilling has continued for North American Helium Inc., which has Savanna Drilling Corp. Rig 629 working at Oxarat, north of Consul.

Vital Energy Inc. has Savanna Rig 419 working just west of Gull Lake, drilling for oil.