Lloydminster – Jmax Well Service is one of the few service rig companies working in Saskatchewan that hasn’t had much turnover, being the exception that proves the rule.
Adam Johnstone is president of Classic Oilfield Service Ltd., parent company of Jmax Well Service Ltd. They’ve had service rigs since 1984. Currently Jmax is operating two service rigs.
“We’ve been lucky that way. We’re small enough that we only operate the two service rigs. We keep one spare guy and let him work in the shop when he’s not on the rig. It seems to work well, when someone needs a day off. We never cut wages when it slowed down, even when CAODC did. We left them where they were at. That seemed to help the morale as well,” Johnstone said. “I’m sure that we’re a little above CAODC rates.”
The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) puts out recommended pay scales each year.
“It’s a problem to find experienced guys that want to work on them. We’ve managed to keep our guys. The odd time we are short, we look to another company right across the street here. They’re trying to run three rigs, and it’s hit and miss, so generally we can get one of their hands to come over if we need them for a day or two,” he said.
Daniela Tobler, who does sales with Classic, said, “I think it helps that we’re locally-owned and owner-operated, because that way the employees feel closer to the organization, rather than just a number.”
“We don’t have much of a turnover rate, at all, even with Classic. It stays pretty steady. We have lots of guys that have been with us 15, 20 years. We have turned over a few people, but not to any extent,” Johnstone said.
Tobler said, “The rigs being fortunate enough to have regular, steady work helps. A lot of companies are doing a couple weeks here, and a couple weeks there for a company, and then their employees don’t know when they’re going back to work, or if this is going to be their last job.
“Even minimum wage is higher than what it used to be. You can go get a steady paycheck somewhere else, and not have to be working in -30 C, long hard hours. So it’s hard to entice these guys to work on the rigs now. It used to be that their compensation for that would being able to make good money. But if you only get to make good money for two weeks out of every couple months, is it really worth it?” she said, referring to the broader service rig industry and the sometimes sporadic nature of the work.
“They’re leaving the house at 5 a.m., get home at 7, 8 at night at times, working in extreme weather. You don’t know if you’re going to have a day off or when you’re going to have a day off. If you’ve got a family, that’s pretty tough to deal with, too,” Tobler said.
Johnstone said one of their rigs works 11 days on, three days off. But the other rig’s schedule isn’t as steady. Rain can be an issue, for instance. “They’ve been averaging 200 hourss a month, which helps, I guess. Even through the worst of the slowdown, we had one rig that was hit and miss for a year. We kept the toolpush, driller and the derrickhand with the option to work in the shop to get some hours if they wanted. They seemed to appreciate that.”
That was around 2016-2017. They did rig maintenance or worked on the Classic side of the business.
“We found years ago, trying to run four or five rigs, it’s just the nature of the business, you’re going to be short guys. We dropped down to one rig in 1998. We sold to a different company and we just bought one rig,” Johnstone said.
A second rig was added in 2008.
“There’s lots of rigs sitting in Lloyd. I would assume it’s tough to find experienced guys.”
One of their rigs has been working on abandonments and production. The second rig is working on production.
One curious thing they’ve done recently was dispatching a service rig tank to work on a well in Quebec in November. They didn’t have any personnel out east, though.
Asked how iron from Lloydminster ended up in Quebec instead of something a little closer, they replied the outfit working in Quebec was from the Lloydminster area and familiar with the equipment.
“I think it’s a small oilfield, and people from the Lloydminster area end up working all over the world, so we do have that network. That person is familiar with our equipment,” Tobler said.