Houston, where energy conferences just don’t stop

If you pay attention to oil and gas – and in Houston, a lot of people do – you probably already know about OTC and CERAWeek.

The Offshore Technology Conference and the conference sponsored by IHS-Cambridge Energy Research Associates are held every spring, drawing thousands of energy professionals to town.

But October is turning out to be pretty buzzy, too, with conferences, a trade show and even an energy-themed family day planned for the plaza in front of Houston’s City Hall.

“We don’t do enough pounding our chest to say, ‘We’re doing a lot of good things in this city,’?” said David Holt, president of the Consumer Energy Alliance, which started Energy Day last year.

Energy Day expanded into Energy Week this year, an effort by the Alliance, the Greater Houston Partnership and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers to boost the city’s energy street cred.

“The numbers change, but energy impacts about 50 percent of the economy here,” said Lane Sloan, co-chair of the Partnership’s energy collaborative. “It’s the most strategic, biggest sector Houston has. And when you look at the growth worldwide in energy, it’s going to be a good thing to be the energy capital. But to keep it, you’ve got to market yourself.”

Several conferences already have come and gone this month.

For the independents

Energy Week will kick off with a two-day conference and trade show focused on technology for independent oil and gas producers, set for Wednesday and Thursday at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Sponsored by the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, the 21st Century Energy Technology Trade Show & Conference is aimed at giving independents an entry point to today’s technology, said Sandi Simon, vice president of development.

“On the one hand, the technology will save you money in the long run and theoretically lead you to more success, but if you don’t have the money, what do you do?” she said. “I want them to take away something useful.”

Big names, hot topics

That’s followed Friday by the Greater Houston Partnership’s annual energy summit.

This year’s event will feature Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Administration, who will address the balance between growth and the environment, a hot topic in Texas.

Other speakers – including Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman and Exxon Mobil Corp. President Rich Kruger – will discuss natural gas vehicles, energy security and the energy workforce, key industry issues.

Sloan is now a consultant after a long career at Shell – he served as president of Shell Chemical Co. and executive vice president of the Americas for Royal Dutch Shell’s global chemical operations, among other roles – and he has remained engaged on a wide range of issues, from the development of renewable energy to energy security.

One theme running through many of this month’s conferences will be the changes produced by shale drilling.

Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, will talk about that at the 2012 Energy Summit later this month (not to be confused with this week’s Greater Houston Partnership event.)

“It’s obviously a positive in terms of tax revenue, economic activity, jobs and local economies,” Bullock said of the shale boom. “We’ve also found that in terms of infrastructure and the like, depending on where it is, it’s not without some challenges.”

That proved true in North Texas, where drilling in the Barnett Shale drew opposition from suburban residents who didn’t like drilling so close to their homes, and Bullock said producers have changed how they operate as a result.

A kind of laboratory

“Shale is still a relatively new phenomenon,” he said. “Industry had to learn to minimize its own footprint. Clearly this was kind of a laboratory up here, and it will undoubtedly benefit the rest of the country.”

That’s part of what he’ll share with his audience, but Bullock said people at all of the conferences gain from learning what their peers are thinking.

“I think everybody benefits from hearing other people’s take on the economic situation in the country,” he said. “Obviously we’ve got an election coming up, and people want to know what the views are on policy and how that’s going to affect oil and gas markets. And they’re all coming at a time when most of these companies are finalizing their budgets for next year.”

Speaking of energy

A number of conferences over the next two weeks will focus on various facets of energy:

Wednesday-Thursday: 21st Century Energy Technology Conference & Trade Show, George R. Brown Convention Center. Sponsored by the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

Friday: Greater Houston Partnership’s annual Energy Summit, Hilton University of Houston. Speakers include EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson; Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman; and Exxon Mobil President Rich Kruger.

Saturday: Energy Day 2012, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Hermann Square, City Hall. Free family activities, sponsored by Consumer Energy Alliance.

Oct. 24: 2012 Energy Summit, The Houston Club. Speakers include John Hofmeister, founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy and former CEO of Shell Oil Co.; Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University; and Michael Lynch of Strategic Energy & Economic Consulting.

Oct. 24: Consumers Energy Alliance-Texas Energy and Jobs Forum, Westin Galleria. Speakers include U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston; U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands; and state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston.

Oct. 30-31: Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology, Hyatt Regency Houston. Speakers include Henrietta H. Fore, chairman and CEO, Holsman International; and Cindy Yeilding, vice president for Gulf of Mexico exploration at BP.

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