Drill, lately, drill: Thousands more oil and gas wells expected in revised 2017 forecast

Oil closes above $68 US a barrel, highest price since 2014

Oil and gas drilling activity continues to recover in Alberta and across Canada, with the number of wells drilled this year now expected to outpace last year's total by 64 per cent.

The Petroleum Services Association of Canada revised its forecast for 2017 upward — again — on Thursday, and now expects some 6,680 wells to be drilled nationwide this year, with roughly half of those in Alberta.

That's up from the 5,150 wells it foresaw in its January forecast, which was also an upgrade from last November's initial forecast of 4,175 wells.

After hovering around 11,000 wells annually from 2012 to 2014, drilling activity shrunk to just 5,400 wells in 2015 and then fell to a low of 4,084 wells in 2016 in the wake of the oil price crash.

Opposite direction

But now it seems the trend is in the opposite direction.

"It's been tough," said PSAC president Mark Salkeld. "We've lost member companies, they've gone under. We've seen the mergers and acquisitions. We've seen the services companies come together to grow and expand.

"But it's been hell. It's been just absolute hell on the pricing and we're coming out of it."

The industry has some degree of confidence in $50-a-barrel oil and the lowering of costs by the service sector, he added.

In Alberta, specifically, PSAC now expects 3,320 wells will be drilled this year, up from its initial forecast of 1,900.

Saskatchewan is expected to see 2,670 wells, up from an original forecast of 1,940.

British Columbia is forecast to have 449 wells drilled and another 221 are expected in Manitoba this year.

Twenty wells are expected in the rest of the country.

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