Houston loses bid to host prestigious World Petroleum Congress

It came down to the wire, but an elite international energy organization has snubbed Houston in its bid to host the triennial World Petroleum Congress in 2017.

Houston lost to Istanbul late Wednesday in a final vote by a delegation of the London-based World Petroleum Council, which had already eliminated competing cities Copenhagen, Denmark, and remote Astana, Kazakhstan.

A Houston victory would have heralded the first time in 30 years that any U.S. city held the conference, which the World Petroleum Council characterizes as the Olympics of the oil and gas industry.

Houston’s bid package cost sponsoring companies, including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Schlumberger and 12 other oil and gas companies $500,000, and it took nine months to put together. A group of Houston oil and gas executives delivered their final pitch for the city at a council meeting Wednesday in Calgary, Alberta. The 52 voting member countries swung to Turkey’s largest city 55 percent to 45 percent.

The event is expected to draw some 10,000 high-level executives and government officials from energy-producing countries. Houston hosted the World Petroleum Congress in 1987, the last time the event was in a U.S. city.

Houston narrowly lost to Moscow in a bid to host the 2014 conference.

Despite the loss, Don Hrap, a ConocoPhillips executive and chairman of Houston’s official bid committee, said he is proud of the work Houston’s bid committee put together.

The bid committee, a group of executives from sponsoring oil and gas companies, in its pitch used articles in The New York Times and Forbes that had highlighted Houston as one of the country’s top places to visit this year.

Texas’ congressional delegation on Oct. 15 sent a letter to the London group in support of Houston’s bid, touting the city’s “spacious convention and meeting facilities, world-class hotels, nationally and internationally recognized attractions for attendees to visit and modern transportation hubs.”

In the previous bout for the World Petroleum Congress, several delegates were concerned about their countries’ access to the U.S. Houston lost again, narrowly, despite promises from the U.S. State Department to support the city’s goal to make visas readily available for delegates.

Houston was expected to soak up a $50 million economic impact from the five-day forum in the George R. Brown convention center, which would have been scheduled for September 2017.

Still, some of the city’s industry gatherings dwarf the prestigious World Petroleum Conference, and Houston is home to a sea of oil and gas conferences every year. More than 100,000 people showed up to Houston’s four-day Offshore Technology Conference in May.