Higher oil prices brighten mood at OTC as many see recovery taking shape

Thousands of energy professionals poured into the halls of Houston’s NRG Center on Monday, gawking at giant, gleaming contraptions destined for the depths of the Gulf of Mexico or the plains of West Texas.

The oil industry’s sluggish but increasingly visible rebound came into sharper focus on the first of four days of the Offshore Technology Conference, the world’s largest energy trade show, where denizens of the oil patch appeared far more upbeat about the industry’s fortunes than last year. Although it didn’t take much.

“Last year was like a funeral,” said Peter Moran, a general manager at Connecticut-based engineered cable company RSCC. “This year is like being in the ICU. Everyone’s ready for it to come back.”

The 2016 edition of the annual exposition got underway only about two months after oil prices plunged to the lowest point in more than a dozen years, bottoming at just over $26 a barrel in February that year. Young college students and laid-off workers tried desperately to find employers at OTC, filling out applications and leaving behind résumés at display booths. This year, vendors said they haven’t seen or met anyone looking for a job.

Michael Neal, a salesman at screw and bolt provider All-Pro Fasteners, recalled veterans of the oil industry, three decades on the job, who had lost their job in the downturn and tried to find new ones at OTC last year.

“That’s when you knew it was really bad,” Neal said. “That was the worst it has been in a long time. I haven’t seen any of them here today at all.”

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