Just as drillers have survived tough times in years past, we will be resilient this time

By Julie Robertson, 2020 IADC Chair

This issue of Drilling Contractor magazine finds us at the mid-point of 2020. Certainly, at the beginning of this year, none of us could have predicted the double black swan events of OPEC and COVID-19, but here we are. Many are just now emerging from quarantines, and the industry is facing yet another significant downturn and an extremely difficult operating environment.

Executive Chairman, Board of Directors, Noble Corporation
Julie Robertson, 2020 IADC Chair

While a global pandemic is unfamiliar territory, a market downturn is, unfortunately, nothing new for those of us with long histories in this industry. Earlier this year, I spoke with a writer from this magazine and shared my belief that our industry was on an upswing – that the previous downturn was behind us. Clearly, my optimism got the better of me, but even in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, I have a short message for us all: Don’t panic.

This industry is resilient. We have survived tough times before – maybe not quite like this, but the 1980s and early 1990s were not exactly for the faint of heart, either. And yet, we are still here, drilling for the world’s energy resources. We have faced each downturn head on, and those times of struggle have led to the development of new and innovative ways to do our work.

The reality is that the world literally runs on the energy we supply. The world would be a very different place without drillers and rig hands, who go to work every day to drill holes in the ground that will ultimately fuel the lives of billions of people globally.

Over the past few months, the need for that energy dwindled with most of the world on lockdown. However, as countries have begun to cautiously open up and return to business as usual, energy needs will rise again. This will provide much-needed relief to businesses like mine and the 1,000-plus other IADC member companies.

Telling the industry’s story – reminding the world that what we do is vital – has been an essential part of IADC’s strategy over the past several months. Our advocacy team has worked tirelessly to highlight the essential nature of oilfield services during the pandemic, partnering with other trade associations to ensure the issue was top of mind for governments in Brazil, Australia, the United States, India and many others.

In this time of instability, I believe we should be focused on staying the course on cost and capital discipline, as most of our companies were already doing. We also need to remain focused on delivering safe and efficient operations for our customers.

As always, we must remain focused on our operations and evaluate where we are able to make improvements. IADC is working with the industry to identify those opportunities through accreditation and training programs.

To ensure uninterrupted training in the critical area of well control, WellSharp Live was developed and introduced in early May to offer an electronic distance learning option that complied with social distancing requirements. While the program may be a temporary offering, the ability to quickly deploy, in such a short time frame, a new delivery method for an established training program is extraordinary. WellSharp remains one of our flagship programs. As you read this, two workgroups have been convened, one to create a guidance document on simulator development for unconventional onshore wells and another to develop new curriculum for a “returns management drilling” training class. This cycle of continuous updates to WellSharp shows the association’s commitment to delivering on member needs and, ultimately, has a positive impact on safety.

While the past several months have presented countless challenges to day-to-day work, IADC has been able to quickly mobilize to ensure that we continue to deliver value to our members.

In April, IADC, partnering with the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association, pulled together a webinar on issues this industry faces in a time of crisis. Our international team facilitated a virtual meeting for companies operating in the Eastern Hemisphere to discuss their pandemic challenges. Our chapters have been successful in making the switch to virtual meetings, with the Southeast Asia Chapter and the Student Chapter at MIT leading the way. IADC’s advocacy group was combing through the US stimulus package almost immediately after the aid was passed by the US Congress, to parse out areas that may have benefit for IADC member companies.

Regardless of the current challenges we are facing, IADC remains on the front lines, advocating for your interests and seeking to proactively contribute to solving pressing industry issues.

It’s just this kind of work that we have done for the entirety of our 80 years. IADC has a long history and has remained a strong presence through countless downturns and just as many times of good fortune.

I’m proud to be a part of this association and even prouder as I look around at how our industry has responded to the unprecedented challenges, adversity and market uncertainty we currently face. I believe that if we remain dedicated to the well-being of our employees, keep our eyes on financial discipline, focus on continuous improvement in our operations, we will emerge stronger from this downturn, just as we have so many times in the past. DC

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