Bracing for Bottom: 58% Less Rigs Operating on Western Slope

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Oil and gas industry experts have just released new numbers showing rig counts are down almost 60 percent and they say it's going to get worse before it gets better.

At Club 20's winter meeting Wednesday the energy committee talked about a waning oil and gas industry and the impacts it could have on the local economy.

They brought in an industry expert who compiled statistics and gave a prediction for the energy industry in 2009.It's a gloomy one but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Patrick Williams worked on the rigs for twelve years until just a few months ago when he was laid off.

"It's real tough. I went from bringing in $4,000 a month to having pretty much nothing," Williams told 11 News on Wednesday while looking for jobs at the Mesa County Workforce Center.

"I just keep doing the same thing. I just keep trying."

Williams is just one of hundreds of riggers laid off in the last six months and energy analyst Carter Mathies says it could get worse before it gets better.

"It is not a matter of slowing growth. Those of us that are active in the industry on the Western Slope of Colorado and Eastern Utah are very much in survival mode," Mathies told 11 News outside of the winter Club 20 meeting on Wednesday at Western Community College.

Mathies says in September there were 102 rigs operating in Western Colorado and now there are 41-- a 58 percent drop in just six months..

He says a national economic crisis mixed with decreasing demand and uncertainty over new oil and gas rules are to blame and even worse, overproduction.

"We could be argued to be our own worst enemy. We've done such a good job that we've contributed to our own difficult situation," said Carter.

But Mathies says the good news is that the industry is cyclical and when the economy turns around, he believes things will get better.

But people like Patrick Williams can't wait that long. Williams says his three kids and two grand kids are depending on him to find a new job and he'll keep trying.

"I haven't given up yet."

Industry expert Carter Mathies believes the oil and gas industry has not hit bottom yet. He believes the worst will come this summer, with the largest number of layoffs coming in May and June.

He believes there will be a turn around but not until the second quarter of 2010.

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