OTC panel to talk big ideas on fifth day of programming

HOUSTON – The Offshore Technology Conference is hoping it can get hip with a high-end, fifth day of programming focusing on innovation and solving the industry’s biggest problems.

In a Tuesday Google Hangout detailing the May 8 event, dubbed d5, organizers described the agenda as more like South by Southwest or X-Games than another industry conference.

The goal will be to disrupt a stagnating offshore drilling industry, said Helge Hove Haldorsen, an OTC advisory board member and Statoil executive.

D5 will be at the University of Houston about seven miles from NRG Park, where OTC runs May 4-7.

“The bottom line is that the offshore industry’s margins now are too low and the return on capital employed is not good enough,” he said. “Investors are saying you have to improve, you have to make yourself into a 2.0 of what you are.”

Enter d5, which Haldorsen said will aim to help bring the offshore industry through a complete transformation. Goals have been set high for the conference: Haldorsen compared the shift he was seeking to advancing from horses to automobiles.

Haldorsen even mentioned the NRG Astrodome, and said that in 10 years he could see the former stadium hosting d5 and forming  “the centerpiece of an innovation hub in Houston that nobody has ever seen the likes of.” OTC officials said they had no immediate plans to harness the Astrodome.

D5 will be at the University of Houston about seven miles from the OTC venue at NRG Park.

D5 may have its sights set high, but it will start small. The day’s program will only be available to about 400 or so compared to the more than 100,000 that attended the main four-day event in 2014. About 60 of those spots have been filled.

D5 will also be significantly more expensive than the four-day event. Tickets to OTC and d5 are sold separately. At OTC, attendees pay $280 (or $180 with a discount) for an event with dozens of speakers and sessions. D5 attendees will pay $895 for a one-day session with nine speakers.

Part of the increased price comes from the high-end speakers and the premium d5 will play to let attendees interact with its headliners. Also, OTC also has paying exhibitors that contribute to its revenue.

The d5 speaker lineup also is less technical than at the larger conference, favoring Harvard professors, 3-D printing magnates and a former NASA astronaut over high-ranking energy industry executives.