By Sonny Atumah
It was an eventful period last week as global offshore energy experts gathered from the April 30–May 3, at the New Radiancy Group, NRG Park in Houston, Texas to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Offshore Technology Conference,OTC, the world’s largest energy conference and exhibition, is where energy professionals meet to exchange ideas and opinions to advance scientific and technical knowledge for offshore resources and environmental matters.
This year’s edition focused on the current state of the industry, reducing costs and improving overall value, breakthrough technologies in a low oil price environment, and industry-leading safety practices. Organizers say since 1969, professionals convened to make critical decisions, share ideas, and develop business partnerships to meet global energy demands.
OTC was formed in 1968 as a forum of major importance and scope to aid rapid dissemination of expanding knowledge of the oceans and recovery of the riches they hold which are of such great value to mankind. At the first annual conference held from Monday 18–Thursday 21,May, the Executive Manager of the OTC, Joe Alford, believed the conference will accelerate the development of man’s last frontier—the sea. Over the years, OTC has fostered the advancement of the energy sector. OTC has expanded technically and globally with the Arctic Technology Conference, OTC Brasil, and OTC Asia.
As we congratulate the organizers as they celebrated 50, it was time we evaluated the OTC, to know whether it sustained the aims and objectives of the founding fathers. When the conference convened in 1969, petroleum was almost at its peak in the United States. Now petroleum is becoming high and dry, and almost being determined what the future of the OTC is? The global battle against oil via global warming and climate dynamics would greatly affect the relevance of the OTC in this century.
Henry Ford’s suggestions may be instructive in shaping the future of fossil fuels: “Don’t find fault. Find a remedy.” OTC 2018 organisers had a session, “The Next 50: The Evolution of the Industry,” with keynote speakers Ashild Larsen, CIO and Senior Vice President Corporate IT, Statoil and Emeka Emembolu, Vice President, Reservoir Development, Gulf of Mexico, BP making vital submissions.
The 2018 OTC Board of Directors Chairman, Wafik Beydoun, said: “We are grateful to the offshore energy industry, our exhibitors, and our attendees who have and continue to collectively work to uncover new techniques, technologies, and connections at OTC year after year. More importantly, we look forward to the innovations and discoveries we will make together at OTC over the next 50 years of the conference.” No doubt OTC would continue to be a market place to share ideas, innovations and discoveries that will reshape global systems and energy in spite of the climate change that had clearly been carefully orchestrated.
At the World Economic Forum at Davos in January which appeared like a summit on climate change to sell the 2015 Paris Agreement, President Donald Trump avoided dealing with the subject in depth. Trump tactically had a retroflection on his America First mantra to: “America First does not mean America alone.” Observers believe the Trump White House “America First Energy Plan” which he had espoused in his 100 days in office to establish American dominance over the global energy industry made the point.
The executive order signed expanded drilling in the Arctic and opening other federal areas to oil and gas exploration. The order reversed some of former President Barack Obama’s restrictions and instructed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review a plan that dictates which federal locations were open to offshore drilling. It was part of Trump’s promise to unleash the nation’s energy reserves in an effort to reduce reliance on foreign oil and to spur jobs, regardless of fierce opposition from environmental activists who say offshore drilling harms whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbates global warming.
In essence, the OTC would be relevant in the next 50 years if the United States Energy Information Administration, EIA projection that more than 80 percent of American crude oil production from 2017 through 2050 will occur in the Gulf Coast and Midwest regions; as defined by Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts, PADD 3 and 2, respectively. Most of the growth in light, sweet crude oil production is projected in the offshore Gulf Coast, increasing from 3.1 MMbpd in 2017 to 5.3 MMbpd in 2050.
But the campaign against fossil fuels may be having its toll on the OTC. Records have it that even as crude oil prices rose towards US$70 it did not reflect in the attendance which dipped to the lowest since 2006. In the last four years attendance has been on the downward trend falling by 40 percent from 108,000 in 2014 to 61,300 this year. Some participants from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD especially from Europe, who have been great champions against fossil fuels carbon emissions, may have started withdrawing from offshore and related oil activities globally. Again, more offshore conferences are springing up by the day. Technology would continue to rule the world and that is the relevance of OTC for years to come.