Russ: Our topic today, Offshore Technology Conference 2015; with me I have Ed Stokes, Marine Project Manager at Alaska LNG Project and an employee with Conoco Phillips and also Chairman of the Board of the Offshore Technology Conference. Ed, welcome to The EnergyMakers Show.
Ed: Thank you very much Russ, really appreciate being invited.
Russ: Absolutely. Also with me today, Dr. Joe Fowler, cofounder and President at Stress Engineering Services and Vice Chairman and Chairman-elect of the Offshore Technology Board of Directors; Joe, welcome to The EnergyMakers Show.
Joe: Thanks Russ, great to be here with you.
Russ: You bet. And also with me, Art Schroeder, founder and CEO of Energy Valley Inc. and Offshore Technology Conference Board of Director member for 8 years, also a Program Committee member for 19 years and this year leading the D5 Program Committee, the new event at this year’s OTC. Art, welcome to The EnergyMakers Show.
Art: Russ, it’s great to be here, thank you for having me.
Russ: You bet. Well let’s start at the top, Ed give us an overview of the Offshore Technology Conference.
Ed: OTC has been in Houston for 46 years this year; we celebrated our 45th anniversary last year. There’s a lot of people that come to OTC every year, last year we had over 108,000 people; we had over 2,500 exhibitors. We had representatives from over 140 countries, most of the states of the United States. It consists of two parts, a large technical program and a large exhibition. We give awards, we bring in teachers, we have R & D showcase, we have mentoring for the day for young college students that are looking for a career in the oil and gas business. There’s all kinds of activities, it’s a great place for people to network, find out about the industry and to start to work.
But OTC is more than the OTC conference here in Houston in May; we have four conferences. In March this year we’ll have Arctic OTC over in Copenhagen – it’s the Arctic Technology Conference focusing on the Arctic region. Later on this year after OTC in May we’ll have the OTC Brazil conference down in Rio de Janeiro; the last time we had that 2 years ago we had around 15,000 attendees. Also, next year we’ll have the OTC Asia conference and we’re looking forward to that – the second one of those with the one last year we had over 25,000 attendees. So worldwide there’s about 150,000 people that attend our conferences.
Russ: Impressive. Now nobody has to give their age and I know nobody was here in the beginning, but 46 years, that’s impressive; how many years have each of you been involved? Art, start with you.
Art: I’ve been involved about 28 years and it’s been a fantastic ride, Russ. I enjoy most meeting up with old friends that you just don’t maybe run across everyday but they’re at OTC, and of course meeting new friends as well as being exposed to the latest and greatest technology; there’s something there for everyone.
Russ: Sure. Joe, how about you?
Joe: Well, I gave my first OTC paper in 1972, which is a long time ago. I was a graduate student at the time but it’s a great venue for new technology; 300 technical papers and plus the young people can come and see the equipment – see the actual equipment; great learning experience for those people.
Russ: Is there any way to compare what it’s like today compared to what it was like when you were first there?
Joe: It’s many times bigger, you know, a car is still a car but the central elements of it – the technical papers and the exhibits, which were the main attractions then – are still the main attractions I think.
Joe: We’ve added to it in many ways but that’s the main thing.
Ed: Well when this started I was a young kid, I wasn’t a graduate student; I was still high school. But I came to my first OTC in 1978, the first paper that was given that I was a co-author was in 1984 but I got involved with the OTC Program Committee in 1995, so that’s nearly 20 years ago.
Russ: Okay, impressive. Okay, so offshore technology is just really happening these days but you see a lot of stuff there, a lot of equipment there, a lot of technology that’s used onshore too, right?
Ed: Well of course but you can’t take an offshore semi-submersible and bring it in to Houston very well, it costs a lot of money, takes up a lot of room. But what a rig does, it fundamentally shows you what a rig looks like and how it functions.
Russ: Right, really cool.
Art: Well actually Russ you’re absolutely correct because once you get below the mud line into the reservoir the technologies are fairly similar, it’s getting to that point and getting to that point we have ROVs – full scale ROVs, full scale wellheads. These are things that – you’re not looking at pictures or scale models or cuttings, it’s the real deal.
Ed: The real thing isn’t it?
Russ: Okay. I also noticed last year, I mean after you watch the news and see what’s happening, what’s gone well, what hasn’t gone well, in the category of things that haven’t gone well man, you see all of this emerging technology. I mean we witnessed several huge advancements in blowout preventers all over the place, which sort gave you kind of a good feeling about American innovation in general.
Art: There are a lot of case studies that are presented at OTC that do examine projects and other activities and really take a close look at what went right, where do we learn – lessons learned – and we cover the waterfront, if you will, on those type activities.
Joe: Yeah, and safety is really the overarching theme of OTC
Ed: You bet.
Joe: And so safe equipment, safe operations, safe people, all of those things get lots of treatment both from the vendors – the suppliers that are there – and in our technical papers.
Art: Well, and the regulators. Last year they started a new session on Thursdays, we have a breakfast, a technical session and a lunch where Center for Offshore Safety comes in hand in hand with U.S. Coast Guard and with BSEE Department of the Interior and really look at the regulations and the safety management systems. It’s a good networking type relationship to really look at the technical aspects from a 360 degree angle.
Ed: No, we have – this next year we have a session where we have service contractors that are going to be involved in a paneled discussion – they’re competitors – but they themselves recognize that for everyone to benefit they have to share technology in some way. I mean, not blatantly their patents, but to talk about the issues and to try to agree on the right path forward, so there’s a lot of that that’s done. OTC, you know the middle name is technology – Offshore Technology Conference – so it’s really keying around technology and what can we do to take our industry forward?
Art: Well one of the exciting things that I was involved in the start of was the next wave and we’ve executed that successfully now 9 years – past 9 years.
Russ: And what is that?
Art: And it’s focusing on the new entrant into the offshore industry, someone with less than 10 years’ experience and provides a forum where they basically construct the program and start out with a one on many keynote speaker and then move into round table discussions to share ideas not only around technology but their career development and progression.
Ed: We have The Energy Institute – a lot of people don’t probably realize all the programs that we have. We have The Energy Institute and the R & D Showcases; well The Energy Institute is we bring in elementary teachers who have a responsibility to teach your kids science and math and this, that and the other and we actually give them a full day session about the oil and gas industry. We have the R & D Showcase where over twenty universities from around the world actually participate; they come and they talk about technology that they’re involved with and try to make connection with companies that need their kind of technology. It also helps them to focus their research.
Russ: Don’t you also see there brand new emerging technologies and, not that this in new anymore, but did you see when all the deep water production first began, did you see it at OTC first?
Joe: We did really before it became widely used and matter of fact, at OTC we have a Spotlight on Technology program and so each of the vendors has the opportunity to nominate a new product for recognition by OTC. So this year we had forty something applicants and we will pick fifteen winners – actually that meeting’s next week – we’ll pick fifteen winners and these people will be recognized on Monday afternoon for their new technology from the vendors and they use this as a big promotional thing to promote their products; it’s a big deal, but it’s meaningful.
Russ: Absolutely. Yeah, well last year that’s what we did – The EnergyMakers did – on the floor, we found as many of those technology winners as we could and interviewed them and it was a great story too.
Joe: Did you?
Ed: A flag above their exhibit, that’ll help you next time.
Russ: All right, now we know, broke the code.
Art: Russ, you know what the keys to success here are? I mean, I can’t think of a single event in the industry that’s bigger than OTC and the key to success here, there’s three components; first and foremost is the volunteers, each of us, each of the committees, thousands of people really involved in a very organized way to bring the latest and greatest to it. So the volunteers are the key central part and then around that is the staff; they’re the ones sort of day in and day out that make the logistics happen. And then the third thing of course is our exhibitors; they’re the ones that pay the freight, they carry the water so to speak, they’re the ones that are really paying to be able to enable ticket prices to be so very, very reasonable to attend.
Russ: Is there anything comparable? I mean, or anything else that focuses on offshore technology?
Ed: Well each of the societies – maybe I should take a step back and explain who OTC’s organized. It’s made up of twelve professional engineering and geoscience societies and two trade organizations all working together collaboratively to put the program together and the exhibition, and so through that we’re able to leverage what each one of us couldn’t so by themselves. So there are other conferences, there’s for-profit type conferences but they’re not nearly the size or depth of what we have; what we have is all the societies and the organizations working together and it sort of reinforces one another and allows so many things to come together. It’s been so successful here in Houston that we’ve branched out so that we can get the same model to Southeast Asia and to Brazil as well as to focus on the Arctic.
Russ: It is impressive the number of companies, the number of engineers that are focused on offshore production. I mean, it’s just a huge industry by itself.
Joe: Well the thing about OTC is, is that I’m a mechanical engineer and Ed is a marine engineer and Art is a materials engineer and so each of us represent our society; so these societies, there’s a hundred and something thousand members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the same with the other twelve societies. And so it’s the only place that all these societies come together and really cooperate. Offshore is really inter-disciplinary; it’s not just mechanical or marine or materials, it’s all of those together and OTC provides the perfect venue for it.
Ed: The whole world needs energy, right?
Ed: We have a hundred – last year there was 143 different countries were here, I’m not sure how many countries there are in the world, I think it’s something over 200, so you’ve got maybe 2/3 of the countries in the world that actually come here. So it’s – it’s focused on either them as a user or someone that is exporting or importing but there’s always something there for everyone because it’s the latest in what is being developed, the latest issues, project updates, collaboration, HSE, technology innovation and applications as well as future thinking. You know, one of the things that we’re working on is trying to leverage things that are used in other industries to better what we’re doing in the oil and gas industry offshore.
Russ: Well you talk about new things, the next big thing, and I understand the next big thing at OTC this year is D5.
Art: What a nice Segway.
Ed: You owe me.
Art: D5, The Next Big Thing.
Russ: So tell us about it.
Art: The idea here – it’s sort of interesting how this came about. The board has different subcommittees and I was part of a task force challenged with looking at we had 1500, 1600 abstracts coming in, what can we do with these as far as getting them into the program? And the first pass was hey, it’s competitive, you know we can only put 400 or 500 on there
Art: Excuse me. So there’s a lot of great ideas and how do we get those integrated into the program?
Art: And it was during that inward look at what are we really doing as far as covering the waterfront that we noticed there was an aspect of our industry and other industries that were missing is bringing in the best of ideas of strategic thinkers, visionaries from other industries to share with us how they dealt with some of the similar challenges as far as safety.
Russ: Like what other industries?
Art: Well, like for one thing the
Art: The military, Aerospace, NASA; we’re delighted on Friday May 8th this year to have our inaugural D5, The Next Big Thing. It’s going to be hosted at University of Houston, which I think is another interesting aspect, and that we’re coupling with industry, academia and university to try to bring the best of learnings together.
Russ: So it’s an all day event?
Art: It’s an all day event and it’s limited to about 400 attendees so we’re fats selling out and it’s focused on from opinion shapers – opinion leaders – to the C-suite technology managers to really look at what others have done. Mike Bloomfield was an Astronaut that was actually Commander of one of the shuttle systems and also investigator on the Columbia. So I’m looking at it from a systems approach, I’m looking at it from a safety approach; what did they learn that we can adopt and bring into our industry? We have the CEO of 3D Printing company that’s being brought in that is really transforming a lot of manufacturing industries being able to cheaply and rapidly and accurately prototype some of this equipment. And do we make kit? There’s a lot of kit in this industry and to be able to do it faster, cheaper and try out different things. So it’s designed, D5 The Next Big Thing, to be an interactive, hands on where you’re rubbing shoulders not only with these thought leaders from around the globe but also with fellow CEOs and C-Suite in our industry; both operators as well as suppliers as well as regulators; really looking forward to it.
Russ: Okay, say somebody’s watching right now, they’re real interested, how do they find out about it?
Art: Go to our website.
Art: OTCnet.org is the place and right there on the headlines you can click on it. It’s a – we have 9 speakers, I mentioned a couple of them; Michael Porter of the Porter’s Five Forces is going to be there as well so it’s going to be quite a day of strategic deep thought with action items to take away to try in your own organization when you get home.
Russ: Really cool, sounds like a neat addition for sure. Okay, so before I let you go, a little bit of a dose of reality, do you expect perhaps attendance to be down with the price of oil?
Ed: Oh of course not.
Russ: It’ll go up.
Art: Well Russ, you know it’s interesting you say that, back when we came up with D5 The Next Big Thing it was looking about how do we really innovate and do things quicker, better, faster, safer and that was in a $100.00 oil environment. Now of course in the challenging environment we look very smart as far as thinking ahead and our industry has had these challenges before, we will have them again, and this is a time really to hunker down and to try new things to really explore ways to leverage technology from other industries.
Russ: Great. Ed, Joe, Art, I really appreciate you guys coming in and giving us an overview.
Art: Thanks Russ, appreciate it.
Joe: Good, enjoyed Russ, all right, thank you.
Ed: Well thank you so much Russ.
Russ: You bet, you bet.
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