Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Energy Activity Hurt by Fewer Rigs, Employees

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Energy Activity Hurt by Fewer Rigs, Employees

Article excerpt

Even though reports point to bustling energy activity in store for Oklahoma in the fourth quarter, some industry representatives say it won't reach its full potential because of a lack of available rigs and a lack of available workers.

So far this year, the state's rig count -- for the most part -- has been above last year's levels. However, activity could be better, they say.

"There are too many prospects ready too quickly,"said J. Brad McPherson, general manager of PLC Energy Data Co.

And before they can begin work on a prospect, operators first have to get the drilling equipment, he said.

The industry has gone through a major "shrinking" since the 1980s when the rig count reached an all-time high.

"Now that the industry is coming back, they are a lot more cautious this time," McPherson said.

"It will take a while for people to take on additional expenditures (such as more rigs) to meet that demand."

But the problem is a people shortage rather than a rig shortage, said Terry Pope, president of Triad Drilling, a local rig contractor.

"Right now, the industry's biggest problem is the shortage of qualified people," Pope said.

This year, Triad Drilling has increased from eight up to 12 rigs operating. That number could rise if the company could find more qualified workers.

Many people have gone to other industries as a result of the layoffs that occurred when the oilpatch began having problems a decade or so ago.

"Most of those will not return to the industry until they see higher wages," Pope said.

So far in 1996, the state's weekly rig count has totaled at least 100 all but eight weeks. The rig count reached triple digits only 16 times last year.

For the week ended Friday, Oklahoma's active rig count fell nine to 111. The count was six rigs higher compared with the same week in 1995, according to Baker Hughes Inc.

Houston-based Baker Hughes has kept track of the count since 1940. …

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