Word to the Wise: Top drilling performers — then and now

February 2, 2021

Each week, XI Technologies scans its unique combination of enhanced industry data to provide trends and insights that have value for professionals doing business in the WCSB. If you’d like to receive our Wednesday Word to the Wise in your inbox, subscribe here

Following a hampered 2020 drilling season due to both a global pandemic and an international commodity pricing war, we’re pleased to highlight recent indicators suggesting positive trends for the Canadian drilling market. Improved pricing and COVID-safe operating practices are leading drilling activity increases to end 2020 and begin 2021. This makes now an opportune time to examine an overview of the industry, both in how it looks now and how it compares historically.

To do so, we’ll look at activity as it pertains to the bellwethers of the industry. How has the make-up of top drilling operators in Western Canada changed over time? What conclusions can be drawn by their activity levels lately, compared to their historical volume in relation to the industry as a whole?

Note: this data comes from XI Technologies’ Offset Analyst software and Drilling Database, the WCSB’s only comprehensive source of digital drilling information. Offset Analyst offers digitized well records for over 190,000 wells at the click of a button.

Most active drilling operators

To begin, we’ll look at the most active drillers in the past ten years.

From this list we see the expected companies, with CNRL outpacing the field by doubling the number of wells drilled by second place finisher Crescent Point. These are the companies that helped define the past decade of drilling activity in the basin.

Now looking more recently, we see recent developments impacting the snapshot of drilling activity and telling a different story.

Taking the shorter view of drilling activity shows a new leader, with Crescent Point taking the top spot and CNRL falling out of the top five altogether. In fact, only Crescent Point and Baytex remain in the top five both for the decade and the past two years, revealing a recent shift in the companies investing in growth “through the bit” in Western Canada.

A deeper look at performance among the top drillers

Those are the raw numbers, revealing the changing tides in the industry in response to recent events. But there’s more to drilling than just total well count. For a deeper look (pun intended), we examine the top five drillers for both periods to get more complete picture of their activity and how it reflects the changes in the industry.

When measuring and comparing operators’ drilling activity, it’s one thing to count the number of wells…it’s another thing to look at well depth and meters drilled. Growth investment through the bit comes at a higher cost, the longer and more complex the wells are. Here, we look at not only total meters drilled (size of icon), but the average well depth. The deeper the wells are, the higher the cost and risk of cost overrun is assumed by the operator. Click the image to zoom in.

Next, is a look at how the areas of the top drillers have changed and shifted over time.

Finally, here’s an annual look at wells drilled by the top five in each group (10 years vs 2 years). Of note, the downward trend of 2020 is reflected by the decade summary, but the quarterly breakdown of the two-year summary reveals a steady uptick since the beginning of the pandemic in Q2.


Click here to download a pdf of this data

Looking at the top drilling operators in the WCSB over these two timeframes reveals a shifting competitive landscape in our industry. While these have certainly been a challenging couple of years, a closer look at the data reveals how companies respond in different ways to meet these challenges, showing resilience and innovation in the face of some of the most difficult situations ever faced by our industry.

At XI Technologies, we provide our customers with the data they need for operational efficiency, corporate benchmarking, and performance analysis. If you’d like more information on how your organization can leverage data like this for A&D, liability management, well planning, or drilling research, visit our website, contact us for a demo, or download a paper on effective drilling in the WCSB.