OTC WRAP-UP: Exhibitors, attendees evaluate OTC 2000

Although down from its 1982 peak when it drew more than 100,000 visitors, OTC is still the oil and gas industry's biggest conference and exhibition. This year's show drew 2,035 exhibitors. Of the 207 companies exhibiting at OTC for the first time this year, 40% were electronic-commerce-related, officials said.


Sam Fletcher
OGJ Online

OFFSHORE TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE, HOUSTON�Heavy rains failed to dampen enthusiasm during the annual 4-day Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, where industry leaders addressed problems and displayed the new equipment that will explore and develop oil and gas resources in deeper waters around the globe.

A preliminary attendance count an hour before OTC's official closing time Thursday afternoon tallied 43,785 visitors this year, despite rainstorms that drenched the Houston area on Tuesday and Wednesday, causing power outages and snarling traffic in some areas. That number is in the ballpark of last year's attendance of 44,749 and about what OTC officials expected.

As usual, exhibitors seemed pleased with the number and quality of visitors to the show.

"It was just nuts yesterday, with so many people out here," said Charles H. "Chuck" Wharton, with Rowan Cos. Inc., during OTC's final hours Thursday. "Today, we're getting a lot of nice students."

OTC officials open the conference to high school students on its final day each year to encourage their interest in the business.

Wharton coordinates the exhibition space for Rowan and its Era Aviation and LeTourneau subsidiaries near the hub of OTC exhibits in the center of the Astrohall. The floor space for Rowan's exhibit has grown to 3,000 sq ft from about 50 sq ft some 14 years ago. Next year, the company will expand its area another 1,000 sq ft, adding a 2-story steel structure to be fabricated by LeTourneau at its Longview, Tex., plant.

Wolfgang Schollnberger, technology vice-president of for BP Amoco plc and OTC chairman for 2000-01, said he's hearing expansion plans from several exhibitors�a sure sign of industry confidence. "Sale of exhibit space for next year is already moving crisply," he told OGJ Online.

E-business enters
Although down from its 1982 peak when it drew more than 100,000 visitors, OTC is still the oil and gas industry's biggest conference and exhibition. This year's show drew 2,035 exhibitors who booked a total 369,959 sq ft of exhibition space at Houston's Astrodome complex. Of the 207 companies exhibiting at OTC for the first time this year, 40% were electronic-commerce-related, officials said.

This week's meeting "clearly" proved that "the industry is moving rapidly and decisively into e-space, which is larger than e-procurement or e-fields," said Schollnberger.

He was among the first to express the concept of e-fields�a marriage of technology being developed for better planning, monitoring, and exploitation of future fields with the industry�s needs to eliminate some of the cyclical ups-and-downs of the oil and gas markets.

E-space, Schollnberger said, "goes way beyond procurement to how we operate deepwater production and look deep into reservoirs."

That's a subject dear to the heart of Bruce Techentien, a principle technical professional in completion products and services at Halliburton Co.'s OTC exhibit. He claims the industry is "getting back to reality" with new downhole technology for improved development and production of deepwater oil and gas fields.

With that technology, Techentien said, it's easier, faster, and much, much cheaper to use a personal computer to make downhole adjustments on a subsea well in 8,000 ft of water than to bring out a $10 million rig to do that work.

Across the aisle in the Astrohall, John Harkness, business developer for Schlumberger's intelligent completions systems for the Gulf of Mexico, agrees. "That's where the industry's going," he said.

Responsible operations
At the same time, the offshore industry is stepping up to its social responsibilities through the use of technology to clean up operations and prevent accidents that could harm the environment, said Schollnberger. For the first time this year, OTC included a global executive summit that brought together government and industry leaders to discuss key issues and trends affecting the offshore industry.

In recent years, OTC has become more international, attracting government delegations�often including top energy officials�from many countries, who meet with companies to promote business opportunities within their specific borders. OTC's new global executive summit is aimed at getting governments and companies talking across borders about common issues and problems. Attending that inaugural meeting were delegates from Australia, Brazil, Canada, the UK, and the US.

Discussions at that day-long private session Monday represented "about an 80% overlap with the same issues raised in the general sessions at OTC," Schollnberger reported.

Like the industry, government leaders are concerned about how to remove some of the volatility from business cycles without interfering with the open market. "They exhibited an awareness that, while [commodity] price is important, managing costs is what differentiates companies. That is the key challenge," said Schollnberger.

Government officials also mulled new problems such as "the apparently inherent conflict between global e-commerce and local-content requirements" that ensure local business and workers get a share of business contracts for energy projects. They also are concerned about data security problems and the avoidance of local taxes through e-commerce, Schollnberger said.

"We will pick some of those issues to delve deeper at the 2001 OTC," he promised.

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