by Diane L.M. Cook

    Industry Public Survey

    The public’s perception of the oil and gas industry has long been reported to be negative. However, is that perception true? In an effort to find out exactly how the public felt about the industry, one industry association decided to survey the public for its opinions.

    Shortly after Alberta unveiled its revised royalty regime for the oil and gas industry in the fall of 2007, the Petroleum Services Association of Canada undertook a Public Perception Program (PPP). Roger Soucy, President of PSAC, said the association undertook a PPP because of the general public’s perceived disenchantment with the petroleum industry.

    PSAC is the national trade association that represents the service, supply, and manufacturing sectors within the upstream petroleum industry. The association represents a diverse range of over 250 member companies, employing more than 52,000 people and contracting almost exclusively to oil and gas exploration and production companies. PSAC member companies represent over 80 per cent of the business volume generated in the petroleum services industry.

    As part of its PPP, PSAC committed to surveying the public in the areas where the service sector works. In June 2009, PSAC commissioned an Ipsos Reid telephone survey in which 1,152 respondents were interviewed in 12 oil and gas regions, encompassing over 135 communities in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.

    The survey’s two main objectives were to determine what the public’s attitude really was with regards to the industry and to identify any issues that could be addressed by the service sector.

    Soucy says the highlights of the Operational Community Opinion Benchmarking Study, released in November 2009 were encouraging. “The responses, on average, were quite positive. The survey also identified some very obvious concerns and addressable issues.”

    Some of the key results of the survey were the following:

    • the top three overall issues for respondents were employment, health care, and the economy
    • 79% of respondents agreed that the industry was believable
    • 63% of respondents said they were interested in learning more about the oil and gas industry
    • 59% of respondents viewed the companies working in their communities favourably
    • 58% of respondents viewed the industry favourably
    • 54% of respondents said the first thing that comes to mind when they think about the good things industry does in their community was community service

    Based on the results of the survey, PSAC is currently developing tools and programs for its member companies and employees to help address some of the issues identified in the survey and to become better ambassadors for the industry.

    Soucy says that as the industry grows in activity levels (save for 2009 activity levels), it is coming more in contact with the public in its areas of operation. Soucy advises that “We can expect to have more friction if we don’t address the public’s concerns. The industry’s social license to operate is very much in its own hands. Being proactive on these matters is essential, and like safety, needs to become an integral part of all operations.”

    Diane L.M. Cook

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