GO
Loading...

Oil Executives Ponder the Future

AP

Talk about timing.

As a massive oil spill spreads in the Gulf of Mexico, 70,000 oil industry professionals are gathering in Houston for the Offshore Technology Conference.

"Sobering," is how conference Chair Susan Cunningham describes the mood.

This is the largest OTC in nearly 30 years, a reflection of what should be celebratory boom times, as oil tops $80 a barrel and the world needs energy.

"Energy drives everything," says Rich Haut of the Houston Advanced Research Center.

But when I asked another executive about Governor Schwarzenegger's decision not to support new drilling off California, he smiled.

"No one was counting on California," he said.

People from all over the world are here—I've seen everything from cowboy hats to kilts.

Hanging over everything, however, is the great mystery of what caused the Gulf disaster, and what is needed to clean it up.

Questions about safety, oversight, and political opposition add a sense of limbo to talk of new projects.

Here are four voices from the conference, two of them "big picture", and two from companies offering specific products suddenly getting a lot of attention.

Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates describes what is happening in the Gulf right now. He says the biggest winners will be...the lawyers. "Go long attorney companies."

Susan Cunningham is OTC Chair and also a Sr. VP of Exploration for Noble Energy.

She says one positive thing about this tragic event is how the entire industry has pulled together to help BP solve the problem. "This isn't just one company involved."

WHAT'S HOT?

Getting quite a crowd is the Remote Operated Vehicle display by Schilling Robotics.

Peter MacInnes says some of these $5 million systems are being used in the spill disaster.

While he says his products are getting more attention, the spill itself is not hurting the industry's outlook.

Yet.

"It's certainly not been a distraction," MacInnes says, beyond the mourning of the loss of life.

"There's still a lot of focus on the long-term growth of the industry."

What may be the most visually interesting exhibit here is from Survival Systems International, based outside of San Diego.

George Beatty showed off a completely enclosed life raft which can house 60 people.

It's been a proven lifesaver, even in 50 foot seas.

Listen as he tells the story of one crew who lived to tell the tale.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

Humor