What is the World Petroleum Congress and why should people know about it?

By Oruku Sunday Adebayo://

The World Petroleum Congress is a big deal. It brings together countries and country delegations, not companies, as council members to have dialogue and understand the global perspectives on industry issues, and to start looking at what the solution space might look like.

It is a nonprofit and its mission is the sustainable management of the world’s oil and gas resources.

Q: What are the major issues that the industry is facing today, and which of these will be addressed at the World Petroleum Congress?

A: The topics of the World Petroleum Congress reflect the state of the industry and whatever the geopolitical topics are at a particular point in time.

Today, the topic is the energy transition. People will say that the oil and gas industry has been in transition since they first discovered fire. We’ve been moving from different energy sources that are scalable and affordable and available to the planet.

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The energy transition is nothing new. But we’re at a step where there is a change in the transition, and it is the topic of debate.

What are some of the realities that have to be included in the broader solutions with respect to how we accomplish the transition? We have an opportunity with the World Petroleum Congress to bring in oil and gas producers and oil and gas consumers from around the world to share their perspectives on what the energy transition means to them.

Q: Does that include perspectives on climate change as governments worldwide set goals to reduce emissions?

A: So much has gone on in the past five to 10 years with respect to lowering carbon footprints and implementing policies that will be required for successful energy transitions.

Not everybody’s aware of those things. We will have conversations at the WPC where we can bring those things out. Other countries can share some of their best practices and also let the world better understand what the industry is doing today to address the challenges.

Q: What topics will be addressed at WPC outside of the energy transition?

A: Certainly, the price of energy, including what’s causing the higher prices and if demand is expected to continue to increase.

When we were in the depths of COVID-19, a lot of things slowed down or shut down. Nobody’s able to accurately predict how soon those things will ramp back up again. We’re playing catch-up for energy supplies. We have to get that machine restarted.

Right now, demand is going up faster than the industries are recovering from the supply side, which is causing price challenges.

Another topic that will come up is capital investment.

If we are going to continue to produce oil and gas, we need a steady supply of capital in the U.S. We also need it in developing countries. There are a lot of resources out there. There are economies to be built, social obligations to be met. In order to develop those resources, we need capital.

Q: The World Petroleum Congress was delayed a year because of the pandemic. What sort of impact did that have on planning?

A: We made that decision to delay it and that was absolutely the right decision at the time. Nobody knew where COVID-19 was going.

The impact on the team and on the event was relatively minor because we could plan that delay into our overall execution schedule. Although the impact took longer to get through because of the delta variant surge.

Having said that, we’re seeing exceptional responses with respect to the speakers and government officials. They are committed to being here.

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It took almost 10 years — three bid rounds — to land this event in Houston. There was interest in going to an emerging oil producing region (instead).

The bid team did a lot of work to remarket Houston as a destination for business with respect to the industry.

Q: As the world slowly comes out of the pandemic and travel restrictions ease, attendance at the in-person week-long energy conference this year is expected to be less than originally forecast 10,000. By how much?

A: We have 2,500 paid, registered delegates at this point in time. We recently went up by about 1,000 in one week. We’re seeing a strong uptick right now in terms of registration now that people have some certainty around that global travel, which only recently reopened. Visas and the consulates have just started opening up. And in the U.S., people are last minute in registering for these things.

Q: What impact is the emergence on the omicron COVID-19 virus having on attendance? What COVID-19 safety precautions are being taken, and are those precautions being stepped up because of the new variant?

A: We are proceeding with the congress as an in-person event. With respect to health and safety, it’s our top priority and always has been. We have incorporated all the latest World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 protocols. In addition, the George R. Brown Convention Center is accredited by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (for establishing and maintaining protocols for an infectious disease, such as COVID-19).

Limited travel restrictions have been announced and may have an impact on some attendees. But we’ve continued to see registration increase last week and this week. We’ve gotten an early indication from our sponsors, exhibitors and global stakeholders that they continue to have positive view of this event and are making their plans accordingly.

This is a dynamic situation. We’re monitoring it closely and will make any adjustments needed depending on how this thing evolves.

Q: What does it mean for the energy capital to have this renowned industry event here?

A: The fact that we were able to delay it, and then bring back, it is an indication of the resilience that this industry has in Houston.

We have had few major international events in the country since COVID-19 started. To have one of the largest here sends a strong signal about Houston, its global city status, and its ability to get the ball rolling as we come out of the pandemic.

We’re going to put Houston on the map again. We’re going to come away with a better understanding of the energy transition, lowering carbon footprints and where the future of the industry is heading.

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