A sign of the times: OTC hauls less gear onto the show floor

At the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston on May 1, Texas oil field service company Dragon shows off a mammoth truck that blends 120 barrels of water, chemicals and sand a minute and feeds it to frac pumps to blast open shale rock.

Another sign of the woes of the offshore industry: The movers who truck gear into the annual Offshore Technology Conference hauled more than 1 million pounds less onto the floor this year than last.

Dallas general contractor Freeman Co. reported total freight — blow-out preventers, valves, pipes, drill bits and frack trucks, as well all the trappings required for trade-show booths — fell more than 10 percent this year to about 8 million pounds.

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It is the third year in a row of falling freight totals. In 2014, when oil prices stood at more than $100 a barrel, double their current price, Freeman moved almost 11 million pounds onto the OTC floor.

Kevin O’Brien, general manager at Freeman, said the drop in weight isn’t entirely related to conference attendance. Booth walls are more often fabric now than solid, which saves weight. And some companies have turned to technology — TV screens and iPads — to display gear, instead of bringing the gear itself.

Still, O’Brien notices a difference this year, especially in the number of booths outside of the main hall.

“In 2013, 2014, it was up, up, up,” he said. “There were booths in every corner.”