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BC Land Sale

By Richard Macedo

The BC government took in $3.69 million at its February 2017 sale, as its brighter start to the year continues.

This sale was powered by interest in the Montney as industry picked up 8,177 hectares at an average of $451.33. That's a large improvement on the February 2016 sale which produced zero in bonus bids for the province.

Year-to-date, the government has attracted $43.31 million in bonus bids on 15,941 hectares at an average price of $2,717.04.

Highlights of this sale included a $1.12 million bonus paid by Stomp Energy Ltd. for a 792-hectare drilling license. The broker paid an average price of $1,407.98.

Stomp also picked up a 1,113-hectare parcel for $675,591.

Sale Date Hectares Bonus ($) Average Price / Hectare
January 7 764 $39,621,805 $5,103
February 8 177 $3,690,533 $451.33
2017 Total 15 941 $43,312,338 $2,717.04


Land Sale Annual History
Year Hectares Bonus ($) Average Price / Hectare
2007 595 559 $1.05 billion $1,758
2008 756 752 $2.66 billion $3,518
2009 389 664 $892.9 million $2,291
2010 381 132 $844.4 million $2,215
2011 191 529 $222.68 million $1,162.66
2012 136 521 $139.26 million $1,020.08
2013 119 095 $224.68 million $1,886.60
2014 148 705 $382.79 million $2,574.17
2015 62 197 $18.36 million $295.13
2016 96 617 $15.19 million $157.22
JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Alberta Land Sales

By Richard Macedo

In what has been a year of recovery -- albeit the year is still young -- the Alberta government attracted a solid $35.07 million in bonus bids at its February 8th sale.

The industry acquired 86,964 hectares at an average price of $403.24.

Year-to-date, the government has collected $53.01 million in bonus bids. For all of 2016, it brought in $148.56 million.


Stomp Energy Ltd. picked up a parcel for $7.99 million. The 3,072-hectare parcel attracted an average price of $2,600.87.

Scott Land & Lease Ltd., acquired a parcel which attracted a bid of $7.99 million. The 2,752-hectare license generated an average price of $2,903.27.

Also, Windfall Resources Ltd. picked up a 768-hectare parcel for $3.16 million at an average price of $4,117.15.

Sale Date Hectares Bonus ($) Average Price / Hectare
January 11, 2017 66 088 $12,725,037 $192.55
January 25, 2017 22 717 $5,216,812 $229.64
February 08, 2017 86 964 $35,067,580 $403.24
2017 Total

175 769

$53,009,430 $301.59


Land Sale Annual History
Year Hectares Bonus ($) Average Price / Hectare
2006 4 231 290 $3,433,708,927.04 $811.50
2007 3 006 658 $1,360,413,583.19 $452.47
2008 3 682 798 $1,228,520,837.80 $333.58
2009 1 842 058 $741,673,011.95 $402.63
2010 3 983 622 $2,414,581,311.83 $606.13
2011 4 606 952 $3,641,012,381.26 $790.33
2012 3 158 488 $1,120,780,950.83 $354.85
2013 2 277 948 $698,321,632.93 $306.56
2014 1 089 453 $494,025,614.35 $453.46
2015 1 615 398 $298,739,730.19 $184.93
2016 996 577 $148,563,229.17 $149.07
JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Well Permitting

Operators across Canada licensed 986 wells in January, up 84 per cent from a year ago, led by a significant year-over-year increase in well permitting in Saskatchewan.

Last month's permit count was a three-year high for the month of January.

Producers licensed 535 wells in January 2016, 850 wells in January 2015 and 2,031 in January 2014.

In Saskatchewan, the regulator approved 479 permits, up 245 per cent from 139 a year ago. Last month's permit count is a high for the month of January in the province. In January 2014, operators in Saskatchewan permitted 478 new wells.

Alberta authorized 459 wells during the month, an increase of 40 per cent from 329 recorded last year.

In British Columbia, the gas-prone province assigned 29 new licenses last month, a decrease of 33 per cent from 43 a year ago.

Manitoba's license count declined 26 per cent to 17 permits in January versus 23 a year ago.

A total of 702 oil and bitumen wells were licensed across Western Canada last month compared to 260 in January 2016.

Meanwhile, across the western provinces, 123 gas wells were licensed in January, down slightly from 149 in the year-prior period.

Producers licensed 767 horizontal wells in January, up from 372 last year.

Operators licensed only 17 oilsands evaluation wells last month, off from 37 last year, 64 in January 2015 and 571 in January 2014. These counts are off from the highs seen in 2006 (1,401 oilsands evaluation permits) and 2007 (1,402 permits).

The top five licensees of new wells in January, excluding experimental and oilsands evaluation holes, were: Crescent Point Energy Corp. (123), Husky Energy Inc. (54), Teine Energy Ltd. (48), Whitecap Resources Inc. (39) and Spur Resources Ltd. (38).

The top licensees including experimental/test wells consisted of the same producers listed above, with the same permit counts.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Montney Condensate Driving Oil Production Growth In B.C.

By Elsie Ross

While British Columbia is better known for its natural gas production, oil production has been rising in recent years due mainly to increased condensate production from the liquids-rich natural gas Montney play in northeast BC, according to National Energy Board (NEB) figures.

In 2016, oil production averaged an estimated 61,000 bbls per day, up 79 per cent from 2009. Of the total, 38,201 bbls a day was condensate (pentanes plus) and 22,794 bbls a day was light oil.

Condensate production increases were proportionate to increases in natural gas production from 2007 until about mid-2012 when production increases in condensate began to outpace natural gas, the BC Ministry of Natural Gas Development said in an email. With low gas prices making drilling economics marginal and high spreads between NGL and gas prices, producers have focused on developing rich gas sources, it said.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Birchcliff Energy

Birchcliff Energy Ltd., which is active in the Peace River Arch of Alberta, says it plans to drill 46 gross and net wells this year with a capital budget of $355 million which it expects to fund from internally generated cash flow.

Approximately 60 per cent of the 2017 capital program is directed to Birchcliff's Pouce Coupe area, approximately 31 per cent towards Gordondale and approximately four per cent towards its Charlie Lake light oil resource play. The remaining five per cent will be spent on land, seismic and other corporate costs.

A total of $229.8 million (approximately 65 per cent of the budget) has been allocated to drilling and development.

In addition to the 46 wells to be drilled, completed, equipped and brought on production, the budget includes the remaining portion of the capital associated with the completion, equipping and/or bringing on production of 10 wells drilled in 2016.

The 2017 capital program also contemplates an investment of approximately $85.6 million for facilities and infrastructure (approximately 24 per cent of the total) to provide for future growth.

The figure includes roughly $27.3 million towards the completion of the field construction of the Phase V expansion of the 100 per cent owned and operated Pouce Coupe (PC) gas plant. Field installation began in January 2017 and it is expected that Phase V will be onstream in October 2017.

Another approximately $26 million will be spent on the procurement and fabrication of the major components required for the Phase VI expansion of the plant with an anticipated October 2018 onstream date.

Birchcliff also has started the planning and initial work for a further expansion. Current plans for the Phase VII expansion include a deep-cut capability and an onstream date in mid-2019 for 150 mmcf per day of the additional capacity, with the balance of the expansion to start up in 2020.

2017 drilling update

Birchcliff has drilled eight gross and net wells year-to-date, consisting of five horizontal natural gas wells in the Pouce Coupe area and three horizontal natural gas wells in the Gordondale area. All wells were drilled on multi-well pads and none have been completed yet.

Birchcliff currently has five drilling rigs at work, two in the Gordondale area and three in the Pouce Coupe area. In addition to these drilling rigs, it has multiple completion rigs and pipeline crews working on various projects.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

ARC Resources

ARC Resources Ltd. has approved an increase in its 2017 capital spending program to $750 million, up from the previous announcement of $665 million.

The planned budget includes the addition of 29 horizontal wells, focused on rigline optimization and pre-drilling of wells. The majority of these wells will be completed in 2018. ARC plans to drill 134 operated wells in 2017.

The 2017 capital program also includes strategic initiatives at Parkland/Tower and Attachie, including increasing Lower-Montney investment. Management expects infrastructure spending for the Parkland/Tower gas-processing and liquids-handling facility expansion to come onstream in late 2018.

Capital spending in the fourth quarter primarily focused on progressing construction of the Dawson Phase III gas-processing and liquids-handing facility, as well as the drilling of 30 wells and completion activities throughout the Montney and Cardium.

Update: Dawson

Physical construction of the Dawson Phase III gas processing and liquids-handling facility is progressing with electrical and mechanical work now underway. The company expects it to be onstream in late 2017.

ARC intends to invest about $185 million at Dawson in 2017 to complete construction of the Dawson Phase III gas processing and liquids-handling facility, as well as to drill 25 liquids-rich wells and 13 natural gas wells. The company will use its wells drilled in this year to keep existing facilities at capacity and to fill the new facility.


Phase III expansion of Parkland/Tower gas processing and liquids-handling facility is expected to come onstream in late 2018.

In 2017, ARC plans to invest approximately $245 million at Parkland/Tower to maintain production at current facility capacity, as well as to progress strategic infrastructure spending at the Parkland/Tower Phase III gas processing and liquids-handling facility. ARC will drill 32 crude wells at Tower and 10 liquids-rich wells at Parkland.


Given Sunrise's favourable economics and high well deliverability, ARC is proceeding with the second stage of the existing Sunrise gas processing facility.

The Sunrise facility expansion should come onstream in mid-2019.

During 2017, ARC will invest about $30 million at Sunrise, directed at front-end Sunrise Phase II engineering and design work, as well as to drill four natural gas wells.


ARC invested about $37 million on pilot activities at Attachie in 2016. The company intends to invest roughly $25 million at Attachie in 2017 to drill two liquids-rich wells, a water- disposal well, as well as to expand area infrastructure.

Ante Creek

In 2017, ARC will invest about $110 million at Ante Creek to drill 18 crude wells and to continue optimization and maintenance activities while keeping facilities in the area at capacity. Crews will also drill one vertical tenure well and one disposal well this year.


The company intends to invest about $90 million to drill 24 operated crude wells and one water-source well in Pembina in 2017.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Chinook Energy

Chinook Energy Inc. announced a $40 million capital program for 2017 focusing on the development of liquids-rich natural gas at Birley/Umbach, British Columbia.

This capital budget will allow Chinook to drill, complete and tie-in six (4.5 net) wells prior to Dec. 31, 2017 in addition to the three (2.6 net) wells currently being completed and tied-in. This capital budget will also fund the expansion of Chinook's 25 mmcf per day compressor station at Birley/Umbach to 50 mmcf per day.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Western Provinces See Hike In Land Sale Spending

By Richard Macedo

British Columbia and Alberta are leading a recovery in land sale spending in Western Canada so far in 2017 — all provinces, each having now held at least one sale this year, have combined for $98.2 million in bonus bids.

After the first two months of 2016, the provinces combined for $16.76 million, with BC taking in $0 at its February 2016 sale.

There's also been an appreciable bump in average land prices, to $497.18 from $137.85 over the same period in 2016 and $238.81 in 2015.

Two sales in particular have been responsible for much of the bonus revenue this year, (one in B.C., and one in Alberta), with the Montney and Duvernay a central focus.

Pair of solid sales

The Jan. 18, 2017 BC sale produced $39.62 million in bonus bids, driven by a $35.13-million license in northeast B.C. prospective for the Montney.

This upbeat start was in contrast to the brutal 2016, which set a new record yearly low for bonus bids of $15.19 million. For 2015, the province took in $18.19 million, which means BC surpassed in one sale what it took in for the previous two years combined.

The high priced-parcel, a 2,331-hectare license picked up by Plunkett Resources Ltd., produced an average price of $15,071.88.

Also at that sale, Basm Land & Resources Ltd. picked up a 257-hectare license for $2.5 million at an average price of $9,741.70.

The Alberta government, meanwhile, at its Feb. 8 sale attracted a solid $35.07 million in bonus bids.

A pair of parcels at that sale combined for $15.98 million. Stomp Energy Ltd. claimed one these parcels for $7.99 million. The 3,072-hectare parcel attracted an average price of $2,600.87.

The other parcel, acquired by Scott Land & Lease Ltd., attracted a bid of $7.99 million. The 2,752-hectare license generated an average price of $2,903.27.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group


By Elsie Ross

AltaGas Ltd.  is proceeding with the first train of the Townsend Phase 2 gas plant expansion and is looking at adding the second already-permitted train.

Long-lead major equipment has been ordered and work is underway on the 99 mmcf-per-day shallow-cut gas processing facility on the existing Townsend site.

The first train is expected to begin commercial operation in October 2017.

With the addition of incremental field compression equipment to move raw gas production from the Blair Creek area to Townsend, the estimated total cost will be approximately $120 million to $140 million, including $80 million for the first train.

The first train and the field compression equipment are expected to be fully contracted with Painted Pony Petroleum Ltd. under a 20-year take-or-pay agreement.

AltaGas also is in discussions with multiple parties to contract and build the second train of the expansion.

NGL produced from Townsend Phase 2 is expected to be transported approximately 70 kilometres to the company's North Pine facility via existing and planned NGL pipelines owned by AltaGas.

AltaGas also said it expects to begin construction in the first quarter of 2017 on its Ridley Island propane export terminal near Prince Rupert. The project, expected to be the first propane export facility off the west coast of Canada, is anticipated to be in service by the first quarter of 2019.

Capital expenditures

AltaGas expects capital expenditures in the range of $550 million to $650 million for 2017. The Gas segment will account for approximately 65 per cent to 75 per cent of the total capital expenditures.

The majority of AltaGas' capital expenditures relating to its Gas segment will be allocated towards growth projects including the Ridley Island propane export terminal, Townsend Phase 2, the North Pine facility, the North Pine pipelines, and the new Montney gas and liquids processing facilities.

North Pine facility

Site preparation is underway 40 kilometres northwest of Fort St John, BC, for the North Pine facility with two separate NGL separation trains each capable of processing up to 10,000 bbls per day of propane plus NGL mix (C3+), for a total of 20,000 bbls per day.

The first phase will also include 6,000 bbls per day of condensate (C5+) terminalling capacity, with ultimate capacity for up to 20,000 bbls per day.

The North Pine facility will be connected to existing AltaGas infrastructure in the region and will have access to the CN rail network, allowing for the transportation of propane from the facility to the Ridley Island propane export terminal.

Two NGL supply pipelines, each approximately 40 kilometres in length, also will be constructed and will run from AltaGas' existing Alaska Highway truck terminal to the North Pine facility. At the terminal, the existing Townsend NGL egress pipelines currently delivering product from the company's Townsend facility will be connected to the North Pine Pipelines to enable shipment of NGL produced at the Townsend facility directly to the North Pine facility.

The target commercial onstream date for the facility and pipelines is in the second quarter of 2018.

Montney gas and liquids processing facilities

AltaGas recently indicated it had entered into a non-binding letter of intent with a significant Montney producer to construct a 120 mmcf-per-day, deep-cut natural gas processing facility and an NGL separation train capable of processing up to 10,000 bbls per day of NGL mix, and a rail terminal.

The Montney facilities, in another area of the Montney separate from AltaGas' current operations, are expected to have access to the CN rail network allowing for the transportation of propane to the Ridley Island propane export terminal.

Subject to regulatory approvals, the Montney facilities are expected to be onstream in early 2019.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Strad Energy Acquires Two FSJ Companies

Strad Energy Services Ltd. has acquired two private companies based in Fort St. John, British Columbia.

The surface rental equipment and personnel of these two private companies will immediately be combined with Strad, which operates one of the newest, largest and most diverse fleets of rental equipment in the Deep Basin from key locations in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Grande Prairie. The acquisition continues to create a stronger, more diverse rental platform for Strad to better service customers focused in the Montney and Duvernay plays of northeast British Columbia and northwest Alberta.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Labour Shortage Threatens Pace Of Service Companies' Acceleration

By Lynda Harrison

Based on producers' healthier spending plans, Canada's service and supply companies are expecting to emerge from their worst year in decades to improved conditions in 2017 — if they can get enough workers.

Industry associations, service companies and analysts agree they are seeing signals that the downturn has troughed but are worried that a labour shortage will keep it in a lower gear.

Over the past two years many oilfield workers, whose hours and pay had withered away, abandoned the industry and Western Canada, and migrated back to wherever they came from for work in different fields, and they are not expected to return.

"Look for 2017 to be ‘déjà vu all over again" as labour becomes a major recurring challenge,” says Jon Morrison, executive director of institutional equity research, oilfield services, for CIBC Capital Markets.

Pressure pumpers appear to be the most at risk, while drilling companies have adapted to labour swings over the years.

For example, Essential Energy Services Ltd. is having trouble finding enough people to crew its equipment even though its headcount was increased 18 per cent between September and December last year (to 348 at the end of 2016 from 295, excluding its service rig division, sold in December), and 35 per cent since first-quarter 2016.

Essential believes service pricing has bottomed. Hydraulic fracturers and large drillers are setting the pace for service price increases, but a labour shortage may be a limiting factor for activity, it says.

The company is continuing to hire during the first quarter, primarily in its coil-well service division, and expects that to continue through the year, attracting candidates through advertising, referral bonuses, word-of-mouth and dedicating additional resources to recruiting, according to Karen Perasalo, vice-president of investor relations and corporate secretary.

Mark Salkeld, president and chief executive officer of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC), recently told reporters that member companies involved with fracking have contracts through March and they are hiring.

"It's good right now and there's a certain cautious optimism going into Q2 and Q3 because they look at the producer budgets and they have drilling programs. We are happy with what we've got and looking forward to what should be coming down the pike."

Major producers such as MEG Energy Corp., Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Cenovus Energy Inc., Encana Corporation and Seven Generations Energy Ltd. have all announced plans to expand production.

PSAC is forecasting the industry will drill (rig release) 5,150 wells this year, an increase of 975 wells, or 23 per cent, from its original 2017 drilling forecast released in early November 2016.

Salkeld said service companies are bringing equipment "off the fence," getting it inspected and certified, and putting it to work.

But Canada's field services sector had enough equipment and manpower to drill more than 11,000 wells a year at its peak a few years ago, so when it has less than half that amount of work it is still hurting, he said.

The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) is a little less confident than PSAC, estimating 4,665 wells will be drilled in 2017, up from 3,448 wells in 2016 (5,394 in 2015 and a whopping 11,226 in 2014).

"We are cautiously optimistic, is the best way to describe it," said Mark Scholz, CAODC president.

The CAODC derived what is now considered a "very conservative" prediction of 4,665 wells and rig utilization rate of 23 per cent in October, he told the DOB.

CAODC members are not necessarily in a position to increase prices but Scholz believes that is indeed necessary to ensure the drillers' economics are healthy.

After record low utilization rates in 2016 — the worst year on record for its members — the CAODC is forecasting a 21 per cent uptick in drilling to 48,980 rig days in 2017, primarily due to an increase in commodity prices, from 40,403 rig operating days in 2016. Both years are down from 64,851 days in 2015 and 131,021 rig days in 2014.

The CAODC is forecasting a decrease in the rig fleet to 610 this year from 680 in December 2016, plummeting from 809 rigs in 2014, but more operating days (48,980 compared to 40,403 in 2016).

The association expects Saskatchewan will lead recovery efforts, due to a more competitive business climate and the shallower, more quickly developed nature of the wells in that province, while PSAC believes Alberta's well count will be ahead, with 2,706 wells to be drilled in that province versus 1,985 in Saskatchewan. Another 367 wells are expected to be drilled in British Columbia and 73 in Manitoba.

Analysts contacted by the DOB said service companies will be busiest in the Deep Basin — in the Montney, Duvernay, and in the Viking and Cardium.

"Activity increases will be broad-based and include the majority of the WCSB. At this point the Deep Basin in northwest Alberta and northeast British Columbia have been the busiest but we expect activity across plays in Alberta and Saskatchewan to pick up," said Morrison.

The challenge of a labour squeeze

Having enough experienced workers is a growing issue, said PSAC's Salkeld.

Many companies have retained as many staff they could and kept them working, and some of them have been operating at cost or less in order to do so, he said.

Companies are setting up their own training schools, holding job fairs in areas such as Grande Prairie, on First Nations lands and in Eastern Canada, hiring Canadians first, he said.

Service companies' recruitment efforts include raising wages, offering guaranteed hours and providing retention bonuses. Comfortable living accommodations at camps is another attractant.

Late last year, Garnet Amundson, chief executive of Essential Energy, told a conference call that former oilpatch workers have either left the industry, moved on to a different line of work, are receiving employment insurance or have left Western Canada.

As a result, he said, the service sector is suffering from a worker shortage that affects service rigs, coil tubing services and hydraulic fracturing.

Being able to offer steady work would help, he said.

Essential has been hiring in anticipation of a busy winter season, he said, noting wage increases have been offered to attract new employees.

Canyon Services Group, which provides well stimulation services throughout the WCSB, recently reported a tough pricing environment and tighter labour but better supplier environment.

The company indicated last November that it was already seeing signs of a shortage of equipment and people to meet all its well completion requests.

Canyon management said it believes the ability for the pressure pumping industry to activate idle equipment will depend on the availability of qualified workers, many of whom have now left the industry, and the need for significant investment to overhaul equipment which has been idle for more than a year.

Analysts' views

“Directionally it's [the activity trend] very good but there's still a lot of equipment that's parked on the sideline [and] there are still a lot of people that don't have jobs, so the direction's good but it really needs to continue for things to get properly healthy,” said Scott Treadwell, director of equity research - oilfield services at TD Securities Inc.

Service companies are starting to contact out-of-province labour but until potential employees have confidence that their work will continue for more than just a few months, there will be tightness in the labour market, he said.

“Certainly through Q1 it's limiting supply,” he said. “Definitely on the completions side so fracturing and things like that.”

He has been hearing about services being delayed because companies can't get enough help.

“It seems to be less of an impact on drilling but the one thing to keep in mind is that the drilling business has always been very good at managing their field labour. They've always paid variable or paid daily rates so they're used to up and down labour demand and responding to that quite quickly.”

Hydraulic fracturers, on the other hand, would hire workers and pay them a salary and fire them when business slowed down, said Treadwell.

Workers' most important consideration is the level of compensation and the amount of hours they are guaranteed, said Ben Owens, analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Rig Releases

By Stephen Marsters

Operators across Canada drilled 808 wells last month, excluding experimental holes, up 65 per cent from 490 wells rig released in January 2016.

On a metres-drilled basis, operators rig released 2.07 million metres of hole in January (excluding experimental wells), up 63 per cent from 1.27 million metres in the prior-year period.

In Alberta, 416 wells were rig released last month compared to 225 a year ago (an increase of 85 per cent). Drillers finished 1.23 million metres of hole, up 91 per cent from 645,813 metres in January 2016.

Operators in the province rig released a total 263 wells in January that had either oil (208) or bitumen (55) as an objective, compared to only 98 last year (63 oil wells; 35 bitumen wells). Producers in Alberta drilled 121 wells with gas as an objective, up from 80 wells a year ago.

Saskatchewan's rig releases rose 50 per cent to 299 in January 2017 from 200 a year ago. Producers drilled 538,177 metres compared to 404,615 metres in January 2016 (up 33 per cent). DOB records show 267 of the wells drilled during January had oil as an objective, up from 192 a year ago.

Operators working in B.C. drilled 56 wells last month, up 37 per cent from 41 a year ago. Producers rig released 228,615 metres versus 166,668 metres a year ago (up about 37 per cent).

Meanwhile, Manitoba recorded 35 rig releases compared to 22 a year ago (up 59 per cent), with 58,469 metres drilled versus 43,118 metres a year ago (up 36 per cent).

Of those wells with a final status, the majority -- 64.29 per cent -- were oil wells. Gas wells comprised 10.71 per cent of wells with a final status.

Rig release counts, including experimental wells

Operators drilled 999 wells during January 2017, including experimental wells, an increase of 40 per cent from 714 wells rig released in the year-prior period.

JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group