​PSAC jumps into energy conversation

Image: Joey Podlbuny/JWN

The Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) is launching a new effort to improve Canadian’s understanding of the positive role energy plays in their communities and of the importance of Canadian energy from a global perspective.

Called Canada’s Energy Brand, PSAC’s awareness campaign is targeting key decision-makers in governments and academia with the aim of helping them understand how important the industry is to the economic and social fabric of the country. The project is also targeting the public with a similar message tailored to the important role the industry plays within their communities.

“In the past we’ve succumbed to a negative narrative. We’ve stayed quiet and hoped it would go away,” says Tom Whalen, PSAC’s interim president and chief executive officer. “We need to get in front of the narrative. We need to say I’m proud to be part of this industry and here is why.”

“We’ve been a little silent,” adds David McHattie, vice-president of institutional relations with PSAC member Tenaris, who is also PSAC Board Member. “What our membership wants us to do is spend our time to create a sustainable industry.”

The Canada’s Energy Brand initiative isn’t an advertising campaign. Instead, it is going to be interwoven into all PSAC activities throughout the year to raise awareness of the importance of the industry.

“Once people are aware, they are supportive,” says McHattie. “It’s a 365-day process built into our annual cycle. We want to tell our success stories about health, safety, the environment, innovation, the importance of the rule of law and democracy. If we don’t do it, who will.”

The effort includes hosting annual events across the country to promote the value of the industry to politicians in the federal and provincial capitals. It also includes hosting guests at the annual PSAC Working Energy Golf Classic, the association’s education scholarship endowment fundraiser, chaired by McHattie, where the association’s positive message can be spread face to face.

“Usually we have company executives and their clients but this year we invited other stakeholders like the universities, SAIT, NAIT and government officials. It makes a difference that they are there,” he says. “We had 180 people at the event. If these 180 people communicate out to their friends who don’t know what we do, it helps us get our message out.”

McHattie said the depth and breadth of the oilfield service, supply and manufacturing industry across Canada ideally positions it to spread the positive message. The sector employs around 450,000 of the 550,000 workers in the Canadian energy industry, with operations across all provinces.

“Our message is positive. We are in your communities. In both rural and urban communities the health of the ecosystem of the communities depends on the health of the industry,” he explains. “In a lot of communities we are the largest employer and the other businesses in the community depend on our success for their success.”

While PSAC doesn’t have the funds to reach all the communities that benefit from oil and gas development, Whalen says these 450,000 workers are well positioned to carry the message forward.

“We’re trying to build momentum to raise funds to go to the broader public, but right now we don’t have all the resources we need to connect to them,” he explains. “Even in Alberta there is work that needs to be done, but in Ontario and Quebec and other provinces we need to do a lot more. There are people who can help there, who can take our prideful vision and bring it to the hearts and minds of Canadians.”

Whalen notes that successful oilfield service companies and their workers could be the best ambassadors to take the positive message to the public.

“We are the sympathetic characters in this story,” he says of the field workers and companies that actually do a lot of the hands-on kind of work, adding that there are other stories to tell as well. “We’re also the high-tech people developing new technologies.”

PSAC is launching Canada’s Energy Brand now because its membership believes the industry is at a crossroads. Global energy demand continues to rise, but without market access the Canadian industry has stalled out and can’t contribute to the growing need for ethical and environmentally responsible supply. Investment dollars are rising in the U.S. and other areas of the world, while investment is flat or declining in Canada.

“In the U.S. right now, service companies are getting higher prices and being more profitable due to that investment and activity. It’s not happening so much here, which is contributing to excess oilfield services capacity, resulting in direct and indirect unemployment. We’re simply not benefitting. While the rest of the world is growing, we’re just treading water,” says Whalen.

“There is an expiration date on these global opportunities. The Russians are stepping up and building gas pipelines and LNG facilities to access large markets like China. Once that infrastructure is built and the long-term supply deals are made, it doesn’t matter what energy resources we have available, it will be too late. As every six months pass I worry more and more. It feels like the world is passing us by.

“The risk right now is our talent pool is going to be exported more and more,” he adds. “Someone else is going to take that talent and build things in other parts of the world. Momentum is great when it’s on your side but right now we have negative momentum.”

“We’re trying to change that momentum,” adds McHattie. “The world wants more Canada and we need to provide more Canada. We’re trying to build pride in Canadian energy and Canadian values to make that happen.”

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