OTC 2016: Some hope amid the nerves

The Offshore Technology Conference in Houston is confronting the key industry issues.

By Bob Vavra, Oil & Gas Engineering May 5, 2016

It’s all sunny skies and pleasant weather outside the NRG Center in Houston this week as the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) is conducting its annual trade show May 2-5. Good thing, too, as a large portion of the fair is relegated to tents and open-air space in the shadow of the legendary Astrodome.

The Offshore Technology Conference in Houston is confronting the key industry issues. Courtesy: CFE MediaInside the show and inside the booths, the mood is more like partly cloudy. After 18 months of upheaval in the oil and gas industry, the trade fair attendees this year are testing the air and testing the potential for industry growth after two years of unstable, plummeting oil prices brought industry investment to a screeching halt.

This week’s attendees at OTC are hoping for a better day soon, but right now they watch investment potential as nervously as OTC officials watch attendance. There will be an estimated 90,000 people passing through the halls and outdoors stage in Houston this year, but the market is still trying to shake off the nerves.

There is a general consensus that, short of a geopolitical crisis, oil prices will continue to rise as demand strengthens and supply remains relatively flat. Prices already have come significantly off their 2015 levels and have settled in the $40-$45/bbl range for the near term. While some industry experts have suggested that price may grow to the $60-$65/bbl range by 2018, no one is banking on that, and there still is a nervous feel to the show.

That hasn’t kept many attendees from aggressively touting new technology and new strategies to help producers better manage their facilities and better operate their platforms. That, and a general sense that oil and gas companies are unlikely to see oil prices drop off again, is at least giving this year’s OTC a sense that the 2017 show might be the home of a stronger and more stable market. 

Traffic through the first three days has been fairly typical: a slow Monday, followed by a very busy Tuesday and a solid Wednesday. As the show wraps up Thursday attendees who talked with Oil & Gas Engineering sounded cautiously hopeful for the industry’s growth into the next year.