Industry leaders gather in Houston for CERAWeek energy conference

FuelFix will provide extensive coverage of the IHS CERAWeek 2013 energy conference  in Houston all week. Check back regularly for updates.

Cyberthreats, energy in the developing world and the ways in which the North American shale revolution has affected the global market will all be part of IHS CERAWeek, which begins Monday.

“Shale gas will enhance the United States as a manufacturer, an exporter,” said Daniel Yergin, chairman of the conference and author of two seminal books on energy — “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power” and “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.”

“The rest of the world has really waked up to the fact that this is a competitive advantage for us.”

An international roster of oil company chief executives is scheduled to speak, including Khalid Al-Falih of Saudi Aramco; Fanrong Li of China’s national oil company, Cnooc; Bob Dudley of BP; and Ryan Lance of ConocoPhillips.

But organizers say the week is also about how innovation can shape the future of energy, so Microsoft founder Bill Gates and FedEx founder Frederick Smith will be there, as well.

Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a contender to replace Energy Secretary Steven Chu, was scheduled for a panel Tuesday but cancelled; he’s expected to be named to the job Monday.

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Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman is scheduled to speak Thursday.

Cambridge Energy Research Associates started the annual CERAWeek conference in 1982, and the event continued after CERA was acquired in 2004 by IHS, formerly called Information Handling Services.

Yergin, a vice chairman at IHS and co-founder of the conference, said finding speakers is a year-round job, designed to attract energy world insiders as well as those who want to learn what makes it tick.

A lot has happened in the past year. Yergin and CERAWeek co-founder and co-chair James Rosenfield said the 2013 conference reflects that, including sessions on growing cybersecurity threats facing energy companies and facilities, the continuing boom in production from shale and other unconventional plays, and navigation of the recovering economy.

“There is a growing recognition that unconventional gas and oil is here to stay,” said Rosenfield, senior vice president at IHS. “The shift from gas to oil, and tight oil in particular, and the emphasis on liquids.”

On Twitter: Live tweets from CERAWeek 2013

People also are starting to think about how low North American energy prices — celebrated for reviving manufacturing here — affect industry
in other countries, he said.

“Europeans are looking at how they are going to compete,” Rosenfield said, noting that natural gas prices there and in Asia are up to four times as high as in the United States.

Some U.S. producers want to export natural gas to take advantage of those prices, and that hot topic will come up in several CERAWeek sessions.

Leaders of BHP Billiton Petroleum, Marathon Oil Corp. and Statoil will discuss how they make decisions in a world with too many opportunities.

In all, more than 200 people from 55 countries are scheduled to speak, divided between keynote addresses and panel discussions at the conference, which will be at the Hilton Americas.
More than 2,000 people are expected to attend at least some portion of the five-day event; registration rates range from $4,500 to $7,250.

A study released by IHS in December found that while many of the economic benefits from the latest boom in shale drilling are in the 16 states with unconventional oil and gas production, other states also have related economic activity.

The study found that 32 states in the lower 48 lack major unconventional oil and gas activity, and yet still gained nearly 500,000 jobs through businesses that sell goods and services critical to the supply chain for unconventional oil and gas development.

That compares with 1.3 million energy-related jobs in the 16 producing states, led by Texas and including North Dakota, California, Colorado and Oklahoma.

Houston’s other major annual energy industry gathering, the Offshore Technology Conference, maintains a focus on technological advances, and boasts an exhibition hall filled with displays of gigantic equipment. This year’s OTC will be held May 6-9 at Reliant Park.

But CERAWeek is more about the big questions.

Rosenfield said that’s by design.

The industry always has focused on technology, operations and assets, he said, “but ultimately it is about people and ideas.”