CALGARY — A 72-year-old bastion of the Canadian oilpatch is changing its name and mandate in a sign of the times as the world aims to reduce its use of fossil fuels in favour of cleaner, greener forms of energy.

The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors said Thursday it will become the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors after extensive member and industry consultations.

It said it is also adopting an expanded mandate to reflect its members’ roles in developing hydrogen, helium, geothermal and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) resources, as well as their traditional role in oil and gas exploration and development.

Association members are looking forward to participating in the “natural evolution” toward more sustainable energy development, said CEO Mark Scholz in an online news conference.

“By producing cleaner oil and gas, developing alternative energy sources such as hydrogen, geothermal and perfecting CCUS techniques, Canada’s valuable oil and gas resources and Canada’s energy services sector will help take us to where we need to go,” he said.

“Our sector is built on a foundation of determination and ingenuity. We’re not only prepared and well-positioned to support energy transformation, but to help lead it as Canada and the world moves to produce energy with a lower carbon footprint.”

The drilling contracting industry has been under pressure for years thanks to low oil prices, with activity crashing to historic lows a year ago as a global oil price war coincided with the initial lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian drilling rig fleet has fallen to less than 500 rigs from about 625 rigs three years ago and thousands of workers have left the industry.

In a webcast from his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said the name change shows that the association is embracing the “economic opportunity” that comes with fighting climate change.

“Some may say a name change is small potatoes,” he said. “This one is fundamental. It is so important to our future because the new Canadian Association of Energy Contractors represents a rethinking of your future, a rethinking of our future.”

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said the changes represent new areas of growth for the industry which will gain importance as the economy recovers from the pandemic slump.

The CAODC was first formed in 1949 by 10 drilling contractors at a meeting in Calgary.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2021.

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press