John Keenan looks at the relationship between economic growth, knowledge transfer and energy conferences in some of the oil and gas hotspots
The oil and gas sector is arguably the most crucial influence on any nation’s economy. Event organisers in this field are attentive to the short-term shock waves generated by political machinations but they keep their eyes firmly on the long game.
One of the giant events for the sector is the World Petroleum Congress, the 22nd edition of which will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, 9-13 July, 2017. Some 20,000 participants, 5,000 decision-makers, as well as 50 ministers from over 100 countries will gather to discuss global gas and oil issues. The 21st Congress took place in Moscow, Russia, in 2014.
The congress is conducted by the World Petroleum Council, a non-advocacy, non-political organisation with charitable status in the UK and has accreditation as a NGO from the UN.
Ulrike Von Lonski at the WPC said: “For us things are a little bit different to the usual event organiser’s issues. We plan the event five years in advance so short-term trends do not affect us. Our council chooses the destination based on strong bids. It’s a bit like the Olympics. The destination has to tick all the boxes. It is not good enough to have a business proposal or a just a tourism proposal. It’s about having the venue, the destination and the infrastructure and content all coming together in one strong bid.”
Energy Cities Alliance
The partners in the Energy Cities Alliance – Aberdeen, Abu Dhabi, Calgary and Stavanger – are focused on the sector and its conferences, with each city hosting an array of association-led regional events.
The Society of Petroleum Engineers, for example, organises regular events, with Aberdeen hosting Offshore Europe every other year.
In 2015 the event was held in Aberdeen and will return for 2017, and Stavanger will host SPE’s international conference and exhibition on health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility, 11–18 April 2016. This year Abu Dhabi hosts its largest oil and gas event The Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) with the conference element organised by SPE. Calgary annually hosts the SPE’s Canada Heavy Oil Technical Conference.
Each of these events has an exhibition element, with organisers not reporting any downturn in exhibition space sales. Some of this may be attributed to changing content of the conference sessions, which have spawned smaller stand alone conferences. Examples include energy storage, pipeline events, well decommissioning and subsea exploration.
A spokeswoman for the Energy Cities Alliance said each partner city works with local hosts, universities and companies involved in research and development into areas utilised by the oil industry.
She said: “These provide enthusiastic professionals in their field of expertise who usually take a leading role in the conference content and presentation of conference sessions. This collaboration with our educational institutions and industry experts has introduced each city to areas where the research undertaken has become employed in entirely different areas than oil and gas technologies.”
Peter Medley, marketing director at VisitAberdeen, added that Aberdeen is proud of not only being the UK’s energy hub and as such a major employer for Scotland, but also managing to keep its traditional industries and tourist attractions alongside the development of the oil industry. He said: “With the downturn in the oil and gas industry, it has been important for Aberdeen not to have all its eggs in one basket. With the additional expertise in the city, such as life science, marine, microbiology, food science, Aberdeen has been concentrating its efforts on attracting conferences in these fields, such as the European Health Psychology Society, attracting 1,200 delegates from the 20-27 August 2016. But, of course, we are not ignoring the oil and gas related conferences which are still coming, with Aberdeen proud to welcome Intelligent Energy later in 2016 which will attract around 600 delegates over three days from around the globe.”
Recent and upcoming developments in Aberdeen include a £20m (US$28.79m) expansion to Aberdeen Airport, which will result in a 50% increase in the size of the terminal building.
Work will also start shortly on the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre due for completion in late 2018/early 2019. The state-of-the-art centre will have plenary capacities of 3,000, 21 meeting rooms, six large banqueting suites and 42,000sqm of flexible exhibition space.
Mubarak Al Shamsi, director at the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, outlined that the precision engineering expertise developed for the oil industry has helped spawn the emirate’s Masdar City project which has resulted in the development of a city which relies on solar energy and other renewable energy sources.
He said: “Masdar City hosts the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency which, in turn, holds events on renewable energy and sustainable technology not just in Abu Dhabi, but all around the globe.“
The destination will see the opening of five new five-star hotels from Four Seasons, Marriott, Hyatt, Millennium Hotels and home-grown group Jannah Hotels & Resorts will contribute to an additional 3,000 rooms in Abu Dhabi in 2016, and an increase in high-quality meetings and conference facilities. Expansion to Abu Dhabi International Airport will result in a rise in capacity to 30m passengers when it opens in 2017, stretching to 48m by 2025. The development will also include new conference facilities and accommodation.
Suzan Hauszner, international sales manager for the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre told CMW that the University of Calgary’s strength in geological sciences has made both the city and faculty a world-renowned research and knowledge hub.
She said: “Calgary will be welcoming the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in June 2016 and it is this broad spectrum of scientific research expertise which also helped to secure the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.”
This autumn, a new international terminal will open at Calgary International Airport. The expansion will allow the facility to better service existing European and North American flights and to explore new direct flights from Asia.
Per Moreten Haarr, convention director for the Stavanger Region Visitors and Convention Bureau, said that technologies pioneered in Stavanger have introduced the bureau to surprising meetings.
He said: “Undersea precision drilling tools developed in Stavanger are now being used the drill on Mars and have opened discussions on space exploration events, while remote patient care developed for the offshore industry ensured that Stavanger hosted new events, as well as last year’s Conference of the Nordic Society of Nephrology.”
Developments at the destination include Hotel Air, featuring 300 rooms with a capacity of 1,500sqm of conference facilities and a new Quality Hotel Pond, offering 185 rooms, plus a major expansion of the airport due for completion in 2020.
The oil price may have plummeted over the past year, but the energy business is still fuelling important conferencing bookings and, more importantly, knowledge transfer and economic growth.