OTC 2013 preps for a bigger, more diverse audience

Enormous pieces of equipment. Cutting-edge technology. Energy companies from around the world.

This week’s Offshore Technology Conference will have all the components of previous years, but Gamal Hassan, OTC program chairman, said it also will have a more consciously diverse focus than ever before.

“We tried to have a very diverse program — geographically diverse, technically diverse and diverse by government,” said Hassan, who is CEO of consulting firm ADH International Group.

The conference, which opens Monday at Reliant Center, always has aimed at an international audience.

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It drew more than 89,400 people last year, more than any time since the oil boom years of the early 1980s, when it topped 100,000. Almost a fourth of attendees in 2012 were from outside the United States.

Hassan said he hopes to draw 100,000 people this year; organizers would say only that registrations were ahead of where they were last year with more than a week to go.

The conference launched in Houston in 1969. It added a South American conference in 2011, and OTC Asia will premiere in Malaysia in 2014.

Each day offers a series of keynote speakers at breakfasts, luncheons and panel discussions, as well as a number of technical panels for a deeper dive into issues ranging from composite piping systems to multiphase flow predictions.

Did we mention that engineers and scientists are among the core audience?

Lamar McKay, chief executive of upstream activities for BP, will speak Monday on tapping deep-water resources safely and economically.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is set to speak Tuesday, and Hassan said other speakers also will draw upon the legacy of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

As BP, Halliburton and Transocean await a federal judge’s decisions after the first phase of a civil trial in New Orleans, Hassan said, the industry is still thinking about the accident, which killed 11 people and spewed a government-estimated 4.1 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf.

“People are still looking at it,” he said. “There are lots of lessons for all of us.”

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The conference is also about the future, and members of a 22-year-old research collaborative will talk Monday about a program founded in 1991 to find new ways to drill in the deep.

DeepStar began at Texaco; Chevron absorbed the program after it acquired Texaco in 2000. It now involves 11 oil companies, each providing an equal share of funding and having an equal vote on which projects to pursue. Several dozen service companies and related firms are contributing members.

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Back when DeepStar was founded, exploration companies were working in 600 feet of water but had begun to lease blocks at depths up to 3,000 feet. Now companies drill at twice that depth, and DeepStar is working on development at more than 10,000 feet, said director Greg Kusinski, who will moderate the panel.

Representatives from BP, Chevron, Total, FMC Technologies, Petrobras and ConocoPhillips will be on hand to talk about their experiences with DeepStar.

Despite the intense competition among companies, the collaboration has lasted for more than two decades.

Kusinski said researchers focus on issues designed to improve safety and reliability, rather than those intended to give one company a competitive advantage.

“We do not work on better techniques to find oil,” he said. “We do not look at better techniques for subsurface imaging.”

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Another panel will feature governors of states with offshore energy development: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

And Hassan will moderate a panel of energy ministers and senior executives from several national oil companies discussing their views of the future.

Hassan said he hopes they and other international attendees take the opportunity to see how the United States has approached energy regulation and resource development.

“They will see what we have done,” he said. “To see what went right, to see what went wrong. We are not here to tell somebody how to run their business, but to give them choices.”


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