Schlumberger posts yearly gain on North American oil recovery

Company's first quarter performance was offset by weakness outside of the United States and Canada.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  April 21, 2017 at 8:52 AM
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April 21 (UPI) -- Gains in first quarter activity in North America were offset somewhat by declines in Russia and parts of Europe, oilfield services company Schlumberger said.

Most first quarter indicators for the largest company of its kind in the world were lower, both when compared to the fourth quarter and year-over-year. First quarter revenue of $6.9 billion was down 3 percent compared to the previous term, but up 6 percent from first quarter 2016.

The market downturn characterized by historically low crude oil prices last year sidelined companies like Schlumberger as investments in exploration and production dwindled. Crude oil prices pulled out of a historic slump last year after members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to curb production in an effort to steady the market, bringing some investments back to exploration and production.

Last year, Schlumberger Chairman and CEO Paal Kibsgaard called "the bottom of the cycle" in second quarter 2016. For the first quarter of 2017, he said business activity was boosted in large part by activity in shale oil and gas basins.

"In the first quarter, the North America land market continued to strengthen in terms of both activity and pricing, leading us to begin accelerating deployment of idle capacity for multiple product lines," he said in a statement.

North American rig activity has seen steady gains for most of the year, with more than half of that activity emerging in Texas, the No. 1 oil producer in the United States. The latest report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said conditions could be evolving for an increase in production from the Permian shale basin, a reservoir that's proven to be one of the more resilient to lower crude oil prices.

The OPEC-led effort has been offset somewhat by gains in production from North America. Schlumberger said land revenue from the United States posted double-digit growth, but recovery was even stronger in parts of Canada, when success is measured by rig counts.

Elsewhere, however, Schlumberger is still facing pressure, though Kibsgaard said underlying sentiment seems to be that the global energy sector has bottomed out.

"In the international markets, revenue declined 7 percent sequentially, driven by a greater than expected seasonal decline in activity and sales, particularly in China, Russia land, and the North Sea," he added.

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