Opportunities abroad a rare bright spot for Alberta oilpatch companies

CALGARY - The past year hasn't been kind to Western Canada's oilpatch, but some smaller energy outfits say their international presence has been a rare bright spot.

See Full Article

Shortly after Blue Spark Energy started out in Calgary in 2011, CEO Todd Parker said he wondered whether to "put all our eggs in one basket here in Canada" or diversify into other markets.

The second option turned out to be a good move, said Parker.

The year after its inception, Blue Spark expanded into the U.S. It has since established a presence in Romania, Norway, Denmark, Iraq and Kuwait.

Parker said there's been strong global interest in Blue Spark's technology, which uses shock waves to dislodge gunk from oil wells while drawing as little electricity as a curling iron.

As a small player, it was complicated to get things going at first, he said.

"But it's actually allowed us to ride out the storm and accelerate our growth much faster than if we had stayed within a single market."

Parker figures about 70 to 80 per cent of Blue Spark's revenues come from its international operations these days. He's looking to add 10 staffers to the 30-person workforce by the end of this year - a rarity in an industry that the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors estimates has lost 100,000 jobs in the downturn.

Karl Bauer, sales and marketing director at oilfield service provider Snubco Group, said his company has had to "skinny right up" because of the downturn, but its business in Europe and Latin America has helped it avoid having to cut into its core staff.

Snubco had 145 workers during its pre-downturn peak. Its head count is now at around 45.

"We'd probably, I would say, lose half of them for sure if it wasn't for some of the European stuff," he said. "This gives us an opportunity to keep our employees working and get some cash flow coming into the tap."

"We get to retain them, they get to keep the paycheque and it keeps everything going through the slow period for sure."

Keeping employees has also been a big priority for Bryce Pinto, president and CEO of Precision Engineering, an Edmonton-based firm that's been focused on Western Canada for 34 years.

"We've definitely had our fair share of pain," he said. "Our work volumes are down, just like anyone else and that's kind of why we started looking at other markets."

Pinto participated in a trade mission to Mexico and Colombia last month and came away with a few leads. But he's not banking on an immediate payoff.

"You have to take your time and do your homework before jumping in with both feet."

Jarl Groothuysen, operations manager at LSC Industrial, made the trip to Mexico and Colombia as well.

The Bonnyville, Alta.-based company provides construction, manufacturing and other services. Groothuysen said he's working out pricing with a couple of potential customers he met on the mission.

"We kind of chose the best of the best and we're following up," he said.

"They need companies like ours down there."



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Ontario transit agency won't let Bombardier bid to operate commuter trains

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Ontario's transit agency has decided not to appeal a court ruling favouring Bombardier but will exclude the Montreal-based company from bidding to continue operating GO Transit trains as it has done for decades. Source
  • Business groups blast Ontario labour proposals on last day of consultations

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Unions and advocacy groups made one last effort Friday to sway the Ontario government on its plan for sweeping changes to the province's labour laws, with some sounding the alarm about what they deem drastic measures and others arguing the proposal doesn't go far enough. Source
  • Marijuana companies band together to develop marketing guidelines

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Sixteen of Canada's licensed marijuana producers have enlisted the help of Advertising Standards Canada to develop guidelines on how the drug should be branded and promoted before its recreational use becomes legal next year. Source
  • Husky Energy set to repair pipeline that spilled crude into river a year ago

    Economic CTV News
    CALGARY -- Husky Energy (TSX:HSE) says it has been granted permission to repair and replace a section of pipeline that leaked 225,000 litres of crude in Saskatchewan just over a year ago. Chief executive Robert Peabody said that it will be applying lessons learned from the spill on the rebuild. Source
  • Ford says it will fight latest Takata recall

    Economic CTV News
    DETROIT -- Ford is fighting the latest expansion of the Takata air bag inflator recall. Earlier this month Takata filed documents with the U.S. government adding 2.7 million vehicles to the recall from Ford, Nissan and Mazda. Source
  • FedEx to close all Office Print and Ship Centres across Canada

    Economic CTV News
    FedEx Canada has announced that it will be closing all of its FedEx Office Print and Ship Centres, across Canada. All 24 centres, the manufacturing plant, and the head office in Toronto will close. Source
  • Car buying pushes retail sales up for third month in a row in May

    Economic CBC News
    Strong auto sector activity helped Canadian retail sales activity rise for a third straight month in May, climbing by 0.6 per cent to $48.9 billion, Statistics Canada said Friday. The monthly increase was double the consensus expectation of economists Source
  • Judge OKs $11.2M settlement for hacked Ashley Madison users

    Economic CTV News
    ST. LOUIS -- A federal judge on Friday approved an US$11.2 million settlement between the marital infidelity website Ashley Madison and users who sued after hackers released personal information, including financial data and details of their sexual proclivities. Source
  • Judge OKs US$11.2M settlement for hacked Ashley Madison users

    Economic CTV News
    ST. LOUIS -- A federal judge on Friday approved a US$11.2 million settlement between the marital infidelity website Ashley Madison and users who sued after hackers released personal information, including financial data and details of their sexual proclivities. Source
  • What drug-dealing 'darknet' sites have in common with eBay

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- AlphaBay, the now-shuttered online marketplace that authorities say traded in illegal drugs, firearms and counterfeit goods, wasn't all that different from any other e-commerce site, court documents show. Not only did it work hard to match buyers and sellers and to stamp out fraud, it offered dispute-resolution services when things went awry and kept a public-relations manager to promote the site to new users. Source