The U.S. and Canadian rig count may recover a bit this year, but it still will be lower than it was in 2012, according to Schlumberger Ltd. CEO Paal Kibsgaard.

Schlumberger, the largest services provider in the world, expects to see 100-150 rigs added to North America’s onshore by the end of March, Kibsgaard said during a conference call Friday. However, this year’s average count won’t overcome last year’s. The number of drilled wells in the onshore will be “slightly up” from a year ago but there are no signs of recovery for natural gas drilling, said the CEO.

“We do not see a significant recovery in dry gas-related drilling activity…We still face an oversupply of horsepower and that has created pricing pressure in many of the U.S. land operations.”

While there has been “growth in key markets, it’s been a difficult year in some areas.” The operator reported an 8% sequential drop in U.S. land in 4Q2012 from 3Q2012, which impacted margins. “A seasonal decline in deviated and horizontal land drilling activity paired with pricing weakness also affected the drilling group segment in North America,” Kibsgaard noted.

“With a drop in liquids activity, we also saw clear signs of a drop in drilling” in the United States. “We still see continuing weakness in North American land margins,” which are becoming offset by increased activity in the Gulf of Mexico [GOM], which as reached “pre-Macondo levels as expected.”

North America operations have “continued market uncertainty going forward…U.S. gas production is still strong and we don’t see a significant recovery in dry gas recovery in the coming year…There also is major uncertainty in land in pricing” for services. “The evolution is not clear. It’s a function of how quickly the rig count climbs back up. North America land will continue to be margin-challenged in the next two quarters.”

Schlumberger’s pre-tax operating margins in North America declined year/year by 448 basis points (bps) to 20.3%, while international margins rose 226 bps to reach 20.5%. The decline in North America was attributed to pricing pressure in the land segment for well services production technologies.

Profits in the final three months of 2012 totaled $1.44 billion, flat sequentially and down 3% from year-ago profits. Oilfield services revenues reached $11.17 billion, 5% higher sequentially and up from $10.30 billion in 4Q2011. North American revenue in 4Q2012 climbed 4% sequentially to $3.4 billion, while international revenue rose 6% from 3Q2012. For 2012, North American oilfield services revenue was up 9% from 2011, eclipsed by 16% growth internationally.

According to Kibsgaard, the world macroeconomic environment “remains uncertain” while gross domestic product growth outlook this year “remains unchanged.” The company sees global oil demand growing at “similar” levels to 2012. “The supply side will see further growth in North America while other non-OPEC production will likely continue to face delay and decline challenges. Absent any unexpected macroeconomic or geopolitical events, global spare capacity is expected to remain largely unchanged.”

Technology-wise, Schlumberger reported advances in the Bakken Shale and the Mississippian Lime.

SureLog Thrubit wireline technology was used to log a 10,000-foot horizontal section of an Oasis Petroleum well in the Bakken formation at a formation depth of more than 10,000 feet, the company said. The service allowed the customer to “maintain circulation, deploy the logging tools, and log the well — all during the conditioning trip.” The design “allowed 37 hours of continuous operation, enabling a petrophysical evaluation of the horizontal section, and a thorough analysis of completion options using data that were previously unavailable.”

In the Kansas portion of the Mississippian, the same technology was used for Osage Resources. “The horizontal log showed significant porosity and lithology changes along the lateral length and enabled design of fracturing stage lengths, water volumes and perforation clusters for treatment optimization. Based on interpretation of the log data, Osage Resources decided to add an additional fracturing stage to the completion design.”