Described by more than one attendee as "the prom for oil people," the Offshore Technology Conference threw open the doors at Reliant Park on Monday, officially kicking off a week-long run that's expected to draw more than 90,000 guests — the conference's highest numbers in years.
Known for its somewhat rowdy boy's club atmosphere, the OTC was surprisingly subdued during CultureMap's afternoon trip, although perhaps crowds were still on their best behavior after a morning visit from the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway.
Engineers, executives and scientists from across the globe flooded the aisles to take in all the latest technological developments from more than 2,000 exhibiting companies. Meanwhile, major industrial leaders like Canada, Brazil, Italy and Germany hold court in World's Fair-sized "pavilions" to highlight their nation's own innovations.
But amidst a sea of flashy exhibits, the U.S. government is taking a more subtle approach with its booth for the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) — the Department of Energy's research wing devoted to advancing the nation's economic and energy security. All the organization's findings are available on its free online database, offering information for smaller companies that may not have a research division.
With the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill only three years behind us, NETL's offshore research expanded to examine more safety and preventative measures, according to NETL technology manager Roy Long from the Strategic Center for Natural Gas and Oil in Houston
"A lot has changed after the Macondo well incident," he told CultureMap. "Since then, we've developed new mapping technologies that will help us better plan for events like that. We're also exploring new cement processes and as well ways to construct lighter and stronger rig rises."
Like many exhibitors at the OTC, Long said the conference is a way to interact firsthand with both international industry figures as well as smaller national businesses within the oil and gas world.
"Many people in the industry don't know about us and out services," he explained. "But at a conference of this size, we hope we can share some of the important research going on at our labs. And the best part is that it's all free."