Ramblings from an oil and gas conference and trade show junkie

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Rob Strong

My recent attendance at GIPEX 2018 prompts my column today and what a conference it was!  But more on that conference later.

Oil and Gas Conferences and Trade Shows

First, let’s talk about the benefits of oil and gas conferences and trade shows:

My first involvement in oil and gas conferences and trade shows goes back to the very first Canadian Offshore Resources Conference in the early 1980s which was held in Nova Scotia, Canada. At that time, the level of offshore activity in Eastern Canada was very high for a variety of reasons –  with rigs (jack ups, drill ships and semi submersibles) all drilling for oil and gas off the coasts of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the ice-infested waters off Labrador.

We, in Newfoundland and much like Guyana today, knew very little of the oil and gas industry.   Attendance at these conferences and the accompanying trade show gave us opportunities to learn from the elaborate displays that the ” big guys” had showing technologies from the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea and other jurisdictions.

There were also many interesting presentations on such topics as new 3rd generation semi submersibles (as if we knew what they were), Offshore Loading Systems, concrete Gravity Base Production Structures, subsea well heads, down hole tools and similar type technologies. Can you imagine how intimidated we were, both by the technology and the personnel that presented the papers or staffed the booths?

From that very early experience, we at the Newfoundland Ocean Industry Association  (Noia), decided to have our own conference and exhibition in Newfoundland. The challenges of being “virgin” in those days were many but we overcame and I am happy to say that in 2017 NOIA celebrated the 40th anniversary of its world class international conference and trade show with attendance exceeding 800.

Noia’s annual conference  http://www.noiaconference.com/program/

It will be held June 18 – 21 and I strongly encourage members of the Guyanese business community to find some time in June  to learn about how we progressed from being newbies to a position where we are exporting our products and, equally important, exporting our expertise.  I have been told that sometimes the sun actually shines in Newfoundland in June and it’s also a great time of the year to dry some salt fish.

But the granddaddy of all offshore conferences and trade shows is the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) held in Houston, Texas annually in early May.  The first conference was held in 1969 and, in 2014, peak attendance reached 108,000.  Just think about a trade show with some 2,000 exhibitors, yes 2,000, showing off the latest in everything from pumps and valves to deep water drilling technologies. Naively, I used to think that I could take in some of the most thought provoking conference presenters, but I also thought that I could visit most of the exhibitors.  This is physically impossible to do; therefore it warrants some prior research to ensure that opportunities are maximized.

I am being a little biased here but my advice would be to attend a Noia conference which is strictly offshore related.  At a later stage, an OTC conference would be beneficial to the Guyanese business community.   I have been to at least 35 and still go to inform myself of some of the changing technologies that we are seeing in the oil and gas industry.

In addition to attending trade shows and conferences, it is also essential for the Guyanese business community to obtain hands-on exposure to some of the technologies that will be seen as Guyana develops its oil fields.   This can best be achieved by actually spending time in the fabrications shops, the control rooms, the simulators, engineering offices, supply bases and pipe yards.   I am actively trying to promote this method of educating the business community.

In summary, education is a multi-faceted approach.  This is best achieved through a combination of initiatives, which include but are not limited to conferences and trade shows attendance and hands-on exposure to the various goods and services providers.  This is critical as Guyana readies itself to supply and service Liza 1, Liza 2 and then Deep Payara.

And who knows what’s coming next?

GIPEX CONFERENCE

But now to GIPEX 2018!

Although GIPEX was promoted as Guyana’s first official oil and gas conference, I would point out that the first oil and gas conference was undertaken by the Guyana Oil and Gas Association (GOGA) in Georgetown in March 2017.  With very little support from the operators and on a shoestring budget, we (as I was part of the organizational team), GOGA pulled off a conference, albeit small and unsophisticated, compared to the very well run Gipex 2018.   GOGA deserves kudos for this.

That being said, what can one say about GIPEX 2018 other than a very well deserved “Congratulations!” to Owen Verwey and his team for what we witnessed February 7 – 9, 2018.

The contribution of the “big guy” meaning Exxon was very much appreciated – both as a speaker in several sessions and as an exhibitor.   When visiting their booth on Friday afternoon, seeing the general public, including some young students, was very gratifying for it is the young people of Guyana who will be the true oil and gas people over the next 40 years or so.

The exposure  that the audience was given to some of the plans and ideas of Exxon and its partners was or should be very much appreciated – not only by “old hands” like myself – but by the local business people who are striving to find their niche in this new business.

The discussion about the potential for a “gas to wire” scenario was worthwhile, as it allowed people to think and discuss the potential benefits of bringing gas ashore.  This would not only help with the high electricity prices that Guyana faces, but also would make a positive contribution to a greener environment by eliminating the burning of Bunker C as is now being done.

I understand that there are discussions ongoing on this topic.   I am hopeful that with the 3.2 billion (yes billion) barrels of discovered oil, there will be sufficient gas to utilize – not only for electricity generation – but also in some related industries.

To hear from the major subcontractors helped people understand where they might fit in the supply chain.  It was beneficial as people need to know their fit, as your customer might be a third or fourth tier contractor and not the operator.    I do know from my various trips to Guyana that there is an insatiable thirst for knowledge present in the country. Whether it is in the business community or in the general population, it doesn’t matter.   People want to know and they should know.

In conclusion, might I offer a few simple recommendations to the organizers of next year’s GIPEX, in no particular order of importance;

Breakout sessions
– Perhaps next year’s conference might include plenary sessions where specific topics get and deserve more discussion than was possible at this year’s conference. I can see the need for separate sessions on local benefits, the environment and, maybe training, as just a few.

Government involvement and presentation excessive – I can appreciate that it was important that Government be seen as an active participant in the first conference.   However, the attendees, at least people like me, want to hear more about technologies, contracting philosophies, quality control, need for rigid safety standards, need for document controls that are critical in the oil and gas business.   Next year – less Government . . . more specific industry topics.

More industry topics – Assuming that GIPEX can obtain their cooperation, I would like to see and hear from other operators, as well as juniors such as Mid Atlantic, CGX, JHI Associates, Eco Atlantic and others in that category, as they were the forerunners of the industry.

Complete participation from all operators – The Noia conference has been held for 40 years, and it is interesting to point out that every operator presents at the Newfoundland conference.  Perhaps future GIPEX conferences could set this as a goal.

It is my hope that my comments will be seen in the positive light for which they are intended.

Congratulations to all!