The 36 th CERAWeek by IHS Markit kicked off the same time as the rodeo in Houston. Cowboys and energy executives enjoying BBQ and the hospitality offered by the space city. I actually met a real astronaut at one of the ABB receptions and of course had BBQ during the week. The mood among the energy crowd certainly seemed more up beat than the last couple of years. Higher oil prices helping the mood and not having to talk about any environmental disasters like Macondo. On the last day Repsol and their partner Armstrong Energy announced one of the largest U.S. finds of shale oil onshore in Alaska.
“Pace of Change: Building a New Energy Future” was this year's theme. During the week, several words that were often heard were innovation, technology, LNG, virtual and augmented reality. Siemens/DAQRI had an augmented reality display and ABB a virtual trip to mars. New this year was Agora@CERAWeek which covered all kinds of emerging technology in the energy field. It was a little like being at Disney Land. President Trump was mentioned but not as much as this reporter expected. Of course, the new administration will have a big impact on the oil and gas industry as well as renewables. Reversing or repealing Obama administration regulations seemed to please most the audience.
The program followed previous years with Monday covering some political matters, policy issues and general supply and transportation topics. Ministers from the Russian Federation, the Minister from Abu Dhabi and a Senator from Alaska shared the stage with the CEO's of ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Statoil and Enbridge. There were many other notable government and industry leaders.
Tuesday is oil day and Exploration and Production is center stage both onshore and offshore. In focus was Russia, Africa, Latin America (an exploration hot spot) and north America. There was also discussion about carbon tax, carbon capture and the effect on climate. The new head of the EPA, Mr. Scott Pruitt, stirred some controversy in the press by questioning whether humans are the cause of global warming. He also said that the new EPA will be pro-development while protecting the environment.
Wednesday is natural gas day and LNG was prominent. The growing development of liquefaction projects especially in Australia and the USA are creating an oversupply in world markets. Cheniere, with Charif Souki at its head, was a first mover in liquefaction projects from the U.S. Gulf along with Michael Smith of Freeport LNG. Both were very positive about their projects and have very good customers. It was one year ago, during CERAWeek that they celebrated their first cargo from train 1 at Sabine Pass. Freeport expects its first cargo before the end of 2018. Experts in the field estimate that demand and supply will come back into balance in the early 2020's. Also, impacting demand will be competition from coal. Coal is the main competition as a feed gas for power generation which is abundant and cheap to produce. Coals drawback is it is more polluting than natural gas.
Thursday is power and renewables day. One of the main topics is how renewables are taking a larger share of the generating market from coal and gas. Even though renewables are gaining markets, gas and coal will continue to dominate through 2050.
Friday is the final day and one of my favorites. Besides wrapping up with several politicians and industry executives there is a session with several professors from MIT. They talk about projects that will change the world in the future. Their projects are all in the experimental stage but can be developed into commercial enterprises. I heard about developments in batteries that will help renewables and self-driving cars. The most interesting was plants that will light our houses. Yes, plants that can light your house.
During the conference, several of the moderators would ask the speakers what will they be talking about next year. Obviously, there is bias but several topics suggested for next year included the Saudi IPO of Aramco, Mergers and Acquisitions, more efficiency, LNG and more investment in E&P.
Other interesting things heard were how several major oil companies did not lay off personal because they knew they would need then in the upturn; that a Middle East country has a Ministry of Happiness; how Iraq will increase its production from 4 mmbpd today to 5 mm by the end of this year. There was also information on Mexico's oil and gas and power generation. The message was that foreign and local investment is growing. BHP is very pleased to have won an area in the 1 st round tenders. The government is also putting out new tenders to build high transmission power lines, pipelines and develop Free Trade Zones.
There are many partners that support the conference such as ABB, BP, Centrica, ConocoPhillips, Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, GE, Tellurian and Ergon Zehnder to name a few. Not everybody is a known name in the energy business like Ergon Zehnder. They focus on areas around executive search and leadership development and have been partners for 6 years. To see a complete list of sponsor you can check: www.ceraweek.com
Daniel Yergin, Chairman and founder of CERA and James Rosenfield, Co-Chairman along with a professional staff did a great job. It is a long week and everybody is ready to go home and rest. A week full of information, of meetings, starting new relationships and contacts and seeing old friends. We look forward to seeing them in March 2018.
by Todd Peterson in Houston