Uncertainty with carbon tax, frustration with pipelines says Panther Drilling’s Cory Hicks

Weyburn – Cory Hicks, president of Weyburn-based Panther Drilling, was one of the first people to post a video saying his company would be taking part in the Regina Rally Against the Carbon Tax. And they did just that, on April 4.

On March 21, he explained why they were taking part.

“Basically, I’m against the carbon tax. The carbon tax will decimate an industry that’s already going through a lot right now.

“It’s not just the oil industry. It’s going to affect all industry. It’s going to affect the single mom with three kids that has to pay her heating bill. It’s going to affect, obviously, my business. It’s going to affect farmers. It’s going to affect the bottom line of the hotel owners. It’s going to affect the quality of life, quite frankly, and it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

He hadn’t yet calculated the cost to Panther. The next bid season is coming up.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” he said, regarding dealing with the carbon tax in those bids.

Beyond the carbon tax, the convoy and rally focused on three other points – building pipelines, killing Bill C-69 and Bill C-48.

“Essentially, with the pipelines, we need to get to tidewater. As an industry, we’re selling to one customer. Anyone in business knows that’s not healthy, because if you only have one customer that you’re selling to, they can essentially dictate price. People can talk about the world market and supply and demand. If we have too much, the price goes down. It also depends on the grade of oil, too; heavy, light, medium, whatever they need to blend.

Asked if the lack of new pipelines has affected the amount they have drilled in the last year, Hicks said, “Oh, for sure. It’s affected the amount we’ve drilled for the last four years. Basically, if the oil companies are not drilling, if there’s not investment money going into Canada, into the oilfield, it makes it hard for me to drill for somebody. There’s only been a few oil companies that have been staying with Canada, and Saskatchewan, where I’m predominantly based in. The numbers went down exponentially. It’s absolutely crazy.”

Regarding the direct impact on jobs, he said, “I had 106 employees in summer of 2014. Over the course of the last five years, it went up and down, but essentially I lost half my staff. It’s hit and miss, too. There’s a chance, perhaps, after breakup, I could get all four rigs out. It could change, too.

“There’s so much uncertainty. If you asked me, after breakup, how many rigs you’ve got going, I’ve got two rigs going for sure. But you never know how ‘for sure’ for sure is. If I had a 10-well program, until we TD’d (total depth) the tenth well, I wouldn’t know for sure.

“The thing is, in the oilfield, we’re not looking for handouts. We need domestic policies. If bill C-69 comes to fruition, which I’ve actually sat and read parts of that bill, but the premise I get out of it is that anybody that wants to object to a pipeline can have their day in court. They can have their day to basically discuss in front of the regulators to say whatever and hold things up. If you want to build a pipeline in 2019 and it goes under this review, it could go on for years before you get approved, which is what we’ve seen with Trans Mountain, which we saw with the other pipelines as well. They were actually approved, and then it was taken away, because we didn’t get the proper approval with everything.

“They moved the goalposts. That’s what’s frustrating.”

He was planning to fill a pickup for the convoy, and true to his word, Hicks could be seen near the front, listening intently as Premier Scott Moe spoke on April 4.

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