The OTC vibe: Last year was a funeral; this year, industry is in the ICU

A 15K Enhanced Vertical Deepwater Tree also EVDT at the FMC Technologies booth at OTC 2013 at Reliant Park Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in Houston. ( James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle )

Even with oil prices hovering around $50 a barrel, it’s going to take at least a year before the offshore oil industry finds its footing again after last year’s collapse, people at the Offshore Technology Conference said Monday.

In general, the vibe at OTC is more upbeat than it was last year, they said. But they remember 2016 as the worst year for the oil industry in a generation. Oil prices have come up to around $50 a barrel in recent months, nearly double their level in early 2016.

“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.”

At OTC last year, young professionals wandered the hallways looking for jobs, but new employment was hard to find, after oil companies cut thousands of jobs. Equipment vendors say they got more sales pitches from other companies at OTC than actual sales.

This year, sales and foot traffic have improved somewhat, but it’s still subdued, vendors said.

“With the shale out in Odessa, things have been picking up a lot,” said Courtney Smith, a marketing specialist at Varel International Energy Services. “But it’s going to be another year and a half before offshore gets back to where it was before.”