Thinking big in the petroleum services sector

Building an international profile for Canada's service sector

March 01, 2011

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Mark Salkeld
Mark Salkeld, president of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada
Photograph by Shaun Robinson

International interest in Canada’s energy sector is growing. While investment floods into western energy assets, the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) is looking abroad for new business opportunities. PSAC president Mark Salkeld is thinking big. The agency recently partnered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to help Alberta firms go global.

Alberta Oil: How did the relationship with DFAIT come about?
Mark Salkeld:
They approached us in the fourth quarter of last year. It was an initiative on the part of the federal government. We agreed and met with them and they explained what they were up to and we explained our previous experience and it just seemed like a nice fit. It was an opportunity for us to make sure that the federal government got a real good look at what’s going on in the oil and gas services sector.

AO: Is this a chance to export Canadian expertise to the world?
MS:
For the PSAC membership, hopefully this will help them be aware of what we’re offering through DFAIT and they take advantage of it. I just came back from a year of looking at opportunities for a drilling company in Australia, and I know that there’s really positive acceptance of Canadian knowledge, technology and services around the world. When you say Canadian services, it opens doors. It’s really well received, and I hope that message gets across to our members. They would be well received if they’re interested in pursuing that kind of initiative.

AO: Are you looking to build relationships with specific countries?
MS:
There are lots of interested investors. Brazil is very interested in what our service sector can provide for their country. In China, there are lots of businessmen that have got money in the U.S. that think they might get a better return for their dollar in Canada. They are looking to invest – not buy, take over and operate – but just to put their money into something.

AO: How can PSAC members tap into global opportunities?
MS:
There are some that are already there – the bigger members. The smaller mom-and-pop welders and independent contractors probably aren’t interested. They’re just happy doing what they do here in Western Canada. But I believe there’s a segment in the middle that has developed widgets in Canada that they think will work in other areas of the world. They may seek this opportunity. So it’s too early to tell, but we’re definitely going to put it on the table for our members and let them know that we have this service available and see how it goes over the next three or four years.

AO: The service supply sector is a $65-billion industry that rarely gets its due. Is this a chance to tell your story?
MS:
You bet, absolutely. It’s big, and that’s one of the things we’re really focusing on, is developing our government relations plan. It’s very, very important that we get that out there. I don’t agree with this perception that we’re the poor cousin of the service sector. That view went by the wayside a long time ago. I’ve got 27 years in industry and the role that we play and our members play, we play second fiddle to no one anymore.

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