OTC, Cleantech moving ahead despite flu outbreak — updated

Organizers of the 2009 Offshore Technology Conference said they are “closely monitoring” warnings about the swine flu outbreak but are still planning to go forward as planned with the massive event next week at Reliant Park.
“We will take precautions to protect public health, and encourage attendees to practice healthy habits, including frequent hand-washing,” event organizers said in a message on the OTC Web site.
As part of the effort, OTC will likely put disinfectant hand sanitizer pumps around the conference site, said Margaret Watson, an OTC spokeswoman. Attendees are welcome to bring masks to cover their mouth and nose, but OTC won’t provide them, she said. Onsite medical crews will also be prepared to refer attendees with swine flu questions or symptoms to area health facilities.
So far, no registered attendees have canceled as a result of swine flu warnings and early registration numbers are still strong, she said.
“Until this moment, it’s been looking extremely good,” Watson said.
Another conference scheduled for Houston next week, TechConnect World 2009 , at the George R. Brown Convention Center downtown is also expecting to go ahead as planned, say organizers.
The event is actually a combination of three events focused on technology transfer, moving research ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace, including the Nanotech Conference and Cleantech (i.e. “clean energy”) conference. About 4,000 attendees are expected.
OTC exhibitors said they also are keeping an eye on the situation.
“No decision has been made on our part if we’re going to do anything differently,” said Anne Schreiber, investor relations manager at Global Industries, a Houston-based firm that provides construction and engineering services to the offshore oil and gas industry. “But I know we’re still planning on having our out-of-town folks come in.”
Last year, more than 73,000 oil and gas professionals from 110 countries attended OTC, marking a 26-year high. This year, attendance is expected to be lower amid a sharp downturn in the oil and gas industry.
Separately, international oil and gas companies including Shell have restricted non-essential travel to and from Mexico. Shell has also activated a “business continuity plan” for its Mexico unit, and employees that have traveled to the country in the past 10 days are being contacted with “appropriate advice,” a spokeswoman said.
— Brett Clanton