Canadian oilpatch braces for massive labour shortage

CALGARY (Oct. 24, 2003) — The president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors says the record pace of drilling will be hampered by labour shortages next year.

Don Herring told the Red Deer Advocate that Canadian drilling companies have reported that 584 rigs — 86 per cent of the entire Canadian fleet — will be in operation for the first quarter of 2004 — making it the highest utilization rate in Canadian history. The association is forecasting that 19,423 wells will be drilled this year, beating the previous record of 17,945 set in 2001. About 80 per cent of those will be in Alberta.

However the rush to get into the field will exacerbate the industry’s recurring labour shortage. Herring said he expects that 3,000 more people will need to be hired to operate the additional rigs. Another 9,000 workers will also be needed for related jobs such as cementing, road building, and trucking, which is coping with its own driver shortage.

Finding drivers — especially in the oilpatch itself — may prove to be a task. While there is money to be had shunting rigs in the search for black gold, it is one of the toughest, most physically demanding hauls in Canada’s trucking industry.

— with files from the Red Deer Advocate

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