Calgary-based Ensign Energy Services Inc. reported a 69 per cent drop in fourth-quarter profits Monday.

The oil and gas drilling company earned $22.6 million, or 15 cents per share, in the last three months of 2009 compared with $73.8 million, or 48 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

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Ensign predicts a 'rocky road to recovery' in oil and gas prices. ((CBC))

It blamed a drop-off in demand from the oil industry for drilling services as prices fell during the recession.

Revenue fell 39 per cent to $278.7 million from $460.4 million a year earlier.

"Net income for the fourth quarter of 2009 was negatively impacted by lower levels of demand for oilfield services and reduced margins resulting from a general oversupply of oilfield service equipment, particularly in North America," the company said in a statement.

For the full year, net income fell to $125.4 million, or 82 cents a share, from $260 million, or $1.70 per share, in 2008. Annual revenue fell 33 per cent to $1.14 billion.

Ensign said it expects 2010 to be challenging, too. Although oil and gas prices have recovered somewhat, it expected those to "remain volatile as general economic conditions continue on the rocky road to recovery."

The company praised royalty changes introduced Thursday by the Alberta government reducing the fees it will charge producers operating in the province. The changes, it said, "should help to improve the competitive conditions in the largest oil and natural gas producing province in Canada."

With files from The Canadian Press