Houston OTC Offers Glimpse into Industry Innovation

By: Jessica A. Valor

Earlier this month, I attended the 43rd annual Offshore Technology Conference held at Reliant Park in Houston, Texas, from April 30-May 3, 2012. This year’s conference was the third highest-ranking attendance in 30 years, and I definitely believe it.  Over 89,400 attendees flooded Reliant Park, Reliant Arena, and Reliant Center filling more than 641,000 square feet of exhibit space over four days. While the conference prides itself on bringing together offshore energy leaders from around the world, many of the special things about OTC come from our own backyard.

Many details stood out to me this year apart from previous years I have attended. Namely, the 13 new technologies that received the 2012 Spotlight on New Technology Award were showcased on massive big screen projectors, called OTC TV, that were scattered outside all over the conference area. This made it both enjoyable and informative to sit down with a turkey leg or other Texas fare and get to know more about the amazing new products being developed. One nomination that caught my eye was the Versabar, Inc., innovation, “The Claw.”

I had the opportunity to meet with members of their team, and found out just how special this project is. A very knowledgeable employee, Ms. Shoinagh Morris, informed me that after the Versabar Bottom Feeder revolutionized offshore lifting, “The Claw,” which is attached to the VB10, took it a step further with its greater lifting capabilities. The addition of The Claw to the VB10 has now made retrieval of sunken topsides from the bottom of the Gulf even easier and safer. Operating much like an arcade game, The Claw simply plunges down to the ocean floor and picks up the entire rig – similar to a stuffed animal from a machine – and places it onto a barge. This eliminates the need for divers to be put in harm’s way.  Versabar President John Khachaturian was also at the booth, and was absolutely beaming with pride.  And it’s no wonder why!

Two other events stood out on Day Two of the conference among the many programs to choose from, including the special technical program panel titled, “Year 2030—Visions of Worldwide Offshore Oil and Gas.” Panelists from ExxonMobil, Total, Woodside Energy, and Petrobras were highly engaging and provided excellent insight into the next 20 years of the marine and offshore industry. Although the industry has experienced a few setbacks the past few years, the panel was upbeat and excited about the changes and positive growth within the industry in the short and long term.  The big message to the rest of the energy markets, “don’t count us out.”

Later that day, The WISE event, Women in the Industry Sharing Experience, kicked off it’s relatively new networking event at OTC. This group brings together highly successful women executives from the industry to share their career experiences and lessons learned. In an industry that is typically considered a “man’s world,” it is definitely refreshing to be able to network and speak with women about their career obstacles and ambitions. Amy Myers Jaffe, Director of Energy Forum at the Baker Institute, Rice University, was the featured guest and did an outstanding job rousing the crowd before breaking. I hope OTC brings back the WISE event for next year, and I highly recommend women in the offshore industry stop by next year. The advice and moral support of this group is truly inspirational.

I look forward to seeing you all next year, May 6-9, 2013, as we try to break this year’s record-setting attendance!

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