Halliburton adding 2,000 U.S. jobs as oilfield activity picks up

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Wasson - 1936

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Frio Deep-Seated Salt Dome - 1902

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Talco - 1936

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Conroe - 1931

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Halliburton on Friday said it’s adding 2,000 U.S. jobs in the first quarter and ramping up activity faster than anticipated to try to match the surging oilfield activity, especially in West Texas.

In a rare operations update call, Halliburton Chairman and CEO Dave Lesar said the company is spending more money now to protect market share and ensure stronger profits in the future. The plan to “frontload as much of the costs as we can” will mean weaker profits short term to better position Halliburton in the future.

“We are coming off of a historic trough, so what we have to add back is almost unprecedented,” Lesar said, warning that its first-quarter earnings won’t be as strong as previously projected.

The rig count last week rose to 789, up from a low of 404 in May. But because each rig can now drill more wells and each well can produce more oil, Halliburton President Jeff Miller compared current activity to that of 2014, before prices fell. “Nine hundred (rigs) is the new 2,000,” he said.

The state of Texas approved almost 1,000 oil and gas drilling permits in February, as the industry responds to higher oil prices.

Halliburton is the North American leader in hydraulic fracturing, used to extract as much oil and gas as possible from shale rocks.

Halliburton employees work on high pressure pipes supplying a fracking site managed by Octane Energy on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 near Stanton. (James Durbin/Reporter-Tele­gram)

Because Halliburton doesn’t have enough sand supplies under contract, Lesar said, Halliburton is taking a $50 million hit just on inflated sand prices.

Internationally and offshore, the industry continues to struggle and won’t begin to bounce back until late 2017 or beyond, he added.

It also doesn’t help that Halliburton lost Chief Financial Officer Mark McCollum, who left to become CEO at smaller rival Weatherford International.

Halliburton’s financial situation was improving late last year, but it still posted a loss of $149 million in the fourth quarter and a $5.7 billion loss during all of 2016.

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