Encana Corp. was the busiest oil and gas company in 2016 during a rough year for the B.C. oilpatch.
The company drilled 91 wells through the end of November, according to well permit data from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission.
While Encana drilled more wells than it did last year, the data highlights a huge overall drop in drilling as the oil and gas downturn drags into its second year.
The top-five oil and gas companies in B.C. combined for just 297 wells this year, compared to 580 in 2015 and 715 in 2014.
Much of this year’s drop was due to cutbacks at Progress Energy, which spent the past two years proving resources for the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG export project near Prince Rupert.
The company drilled 313 wells in 2014 and 356 last year. In 2016, Progress fell to second place behind Encana with just 62 wells.
2016 also saw Tourmaline Oil Corp. and Crew Energy drop out of the top five, replaced by Painted Pony Petroleum and Shell Canada, which had 50 and 39 wells, respectively.
Encana operates primarily in the South Peace, while Progress’s holdings are concentrated in the North Montney. Encana has recently shifted focus to natural gas liquids.
According to Encana spokesman Jay Averill, the company’s year-to-year spending in the Montney has been relatively flat. The company spent US$159 million in the Montney in 2015, including the B.C. and Alberta sides of the shale formation. This year, Encana put around US$120 million into the play.