At Energy giant Halliburton it’s ‘Not business as usual’
For members of one Halliburton work crew, a phone call Wednesday meant come to the office at 32 and D roads Thursday to fill out paperwork. No phone call meant come to work on your normal schedule.
It was better to not get the call. Those who did were no longer needed by the oil and gas field services company, which laid off an untold number of workers Thursday.
Halliburton did not answer questions Thursday about the number of workers it sent to the unemployment line. One anonymous caller to The Daily Sentinel said it was 300 or more. One
Halliburton employee who did not give his name said the workers had no idea how many people were laid off.
All Halliburton offered was the following from District Manager Larry Kent in a midafternoon news release: “It simply is not business as usual in the current economic environment and we continue to work hard to minimize personnel reductions; however, we can confirm, unfortunately, that there were some Halliburton personnel reductions in Grand Junction today.
“Halliburton remains committed to deliver exceptional solutions and services to our customers in the Grand Junction area as we have since 1996.”
As workers arrived Thursday morning at Halliburton’s Grand Junction office, a contingent of armed security guards greeted employees at the compound, where 1,000 to 1,200 gas field workers are based.
Some who were laid off were upset by the show of force, but they also said they understood the reasoning for their layoffs.
“I’m not mad. I understand economics,” said Don Dial, who worked with Halliburton for three years. “I’m a little put out because I am 60 years old, and it is going to be a lot tougher for me finding a job in this economy compared to a lot of the younger guys.”
Matt Logan, 22, was upset about the armed guards, saying, “It is a little crazy, I think.”
He said he arrived at work at his usual time and then got a call to attend a meeting.
“They thanked us for everything we had done with the company ... due to the hard economy and all that, they have to relieve us from duty,” Logan said. “And it is a layoff and everything, but nothing permanent ... If they need us, they will give us a call. ... Just the way the cookie crumbles, I guess.”
And the energy sector’s cookie is crumbling. According to the transcript of a Jan. 26 Halliburton media conference call, available at http://www.SeekingAlpha.com, regarding the company’s 2008 fourth-quarter results and the forecast for 2009, the global company is scaling back operations, particularly in North America.
“So far in 2009, rig counts have fallen sharply and are now roughly 25 percent below 2008 highs. We expect activity declines in North America to accelerate further in the first quarter,” said Dave Lesar, Halliburton’s chief executive.
Company officials compared the slowdown to one that occurred in 2001.
“In North America, we believe the speed of the rig count drop correlates well with the depth and length of past downturns,” said Tim Probert, executive vice president of strategy and corporate development. “So far we have seen a 25 percent, or over 500-rig drop, from the (third quarter of) 2008’s peak. ... It would suggest to us we would be kind of looking at a three-quarter cycle.
We are obviously already in the second quarter of that right now.”
Halliburton’s No. 1 global competitor, Schlumberger, announced plans last year to build a facility in De Beque. But after starting work, clearing the ground and stringing some fences, Schlumberger stopped.
Bruce Smith, De Beque’s town manager, said he spoke face-to-face with Schlumberger officials Tuesday.
“They are planning to start working again here shortly,” Smith said. “What Schlumberger is telling me is that they are committed to finishing all of their infrastructure in 2009.”
A Schlumberger spokesman said as much Thursday.
“As far as I understand, we are still on track with the facility in De Beque,” said Stephen Harris, a company spokesman. “We slowed down the work, but in line with activity.”