Rough ride: A look at Canada's oil sector before and after the collapse

CALGARY – It’s been a rough ride for Canada’s oil sector since the middle of last year.

In June 2014, the U.S. benchmark crude price averaged US$105.79 a barrel. By January of this year, it had shrivelled to just US$47.22 — a drop of about 55 per cent.

West Texas Intermediate crude has since been climbing closer to US$60, but executives in the oilpatch aren’t holding out hope for sustained recovery just yet.

Crude prices fell steadily throughout the second half of 2014 amid burgeoning North American production and tepid global demand. But the trajectory got much steeper in late November, when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries opted to keep up its output quotas, rather than cut them in order to put a floor under prices. The move was interpreted as a way to put more costly competitors, like U.S. shale oil producers, out of business.

Here is a look at the how the picture has changed for Canada before and after the oil collapse:


The downturn has led to thousands of job losses in the oil and gas sector and the industries that support it.

The petroleum labour market information division of Enform says the Canadian economy could lose as many as 185,000 direct and indirect jobs related to the oil and gas industry — a 25 per cent decline from last year.

Alberta is expected to bear the brunt, but the group says the pain would be felt across the country, with 20,000 job losses estimated in British Columbia and 14,000 in Ontario.

With new projects being shelved amid the uncertainty, engineering firms are expected to absorb the biggest hit, with 75,000 potential job losses.

The oilfield services sector has also been hit particularly hard. The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors says each active drilling rig represents 135 direct and indirect jobs, many of which are in rural communities.

— Precision Drilling, one of Canada’s biggest oilfield services firms, has said it has cut 2,500 positions in the field since November.

— Trican Well Service has cut 2,000 employees from its North American workforce.

Companies that explore for and produce oil and gas have made big cuts, too.

— Oilsands giant Suncor Energy has cut 1,200 jobs

— Shell Canada has cut up to 300 workers from its oilsands operations

— Cenovus Energy has cut 800 jobs

— Talisman Energy, before it was taken over by Spain’s Repsol, cut up to 200 jobs

— ConocoPhillips Canada has announced 200 job cuts

— Nexen Energy, a subsidiary of China’s CNOOC Ltd., has cut 300 jobs in Canada.

Rigs and wells:

The downturn is being felt acutely among oilfield service providers. When oil and gas producers slow down activity, it means less work for companies that are hired to operate drilling rigs and haul equipment. And for the work that is still being done, producers are putting pressure on their service providers to lower their rates.

According to the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, there are 203 active drilling rigs forecast for this year on average. That’s down from 370 last year.

The percentage of the drilling rig fleet that’s active is expected to drop to just 26 per cent this year, down from 46 per cent last year.

In October, the Petroleum Services Association of Canada expected 10,100 wells to be drilled in 2015. In April, it revised that forecast to 5,320 wells.


Oil and gas producers are tightening their belts these days. That means deferring some big-ticket projects until the storm clouds clear and putting a sharper focus on costs.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers expects capital investment in Western Canada to total $46 billion in 2015, down from $69 billion the year before. In the oilsands, CAPP is expecting capital investment to be $25 billion, compared to $33 billion last year.

In conventional oil and gas, spending is expected to decrease to $21 billion from $36 billion last year.