A clear signal that Alberta’s oil and gas industry is alive and kicking was Calgary’s Global Energy Show held June 6 to 8.
Last held in 2019, this important annual event was one of the many casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
Originally called the National Petroleum Show when it was started in the 1960s, as Canada’s international recognition and participation grew the name was changed to Global Petroleum Show in 2002.
It was rebranded again as the Global Energy Show in early 2020, reflecting “the industry’s continued evolution” and the “significant technological and sustainable achievements driven by oil and gas and moves to encompass alternative sources.”
Concurrent with the exhibition is a technical conference where speakers and thought leaders share technology, ideas, trends and innovations.
Trade shows exist because of their integral role in marketing and communications among buyers and sellers. They provide the opportunity to display services, equipment and products to prospective customers and each other.
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Often overlooked is how much business is conducted among the exhibitors, not just the end-users, which are oil and gas exploration and development companies.
This year’s show was smaller than past events. But what’s most important is that it existed. The mood among exhibitors and attendees was very positive, and the technical sessions were well attended.
The show unleashed two years of pent-up interpersonal contact among those still proud to be working in this industry. Although there was participation among alternative energy players like nuclear and geothermal, most of the exhibitors were nuts and bolts oilpatch suppliers.
This included valves, filters, safety equipment, transportation services, corrosion control, communications, environmental services, engines, instrumentation, software and engineering consultants.
Simply knowing who sells what is an educational experience in helping people understand how vast and complex the supply chain is to keep Canada producing over eight million barrels of oil equivalent daily, number five in the world.
It also demonstrates the significant diversification of the domestic service and supply industry which now supports local and international markets. This industry is not just about resource extraction. It would be useful if more of our fellow Canadians understood that.
China was represented by multiple companies selling solid steel essentials like pumps, power tongs and drill pipe slips.
Other countries, regions and municipalities concluding their participation was important were Iceland, Nigeria, Korea, Ghana, India, New Mexico, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Sarnia, and Grande Prairie.
Various aspects of carbon management were well represented. But all of these companies were supporting oil and gas, not renewables.
As important as the return of Calgary’s oil show is its long history. In 1966, a group of oil executives figured that Canada needed its own petroleum exhibition. So they organized the Canadian Petroleum Exposition and set it up in conjunction with the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede in July of that year.
Coined “Flare Square” it featured an operating drilling rig which had drilled a well to 499 feet, a wooden cable tool rig, and a conventional derrick with a big flare stack on top. As a historical note, the wooden rig was moved to Calgary’s Heritage Park, where it remains today as a permanent exhibit.
Today’s GES began 56 years ago as an educational exhibition to help the public understand the equipment and processes that make oil and gas development possible.
Tying it in with the Calgary Stampede also made it the world’s largest oil show that year, as 600,000 people came through the gates. You couldn’t miss the collection of sky-high oilpatch iron on the south end of the exhibition grounds.
Good ideas keep going. In 1968 the oil and gas exhibition was disconnected from the Calgary Stampede, rebranded the National Petroleum Show, and moved forward one month into June. Because it was a business-to-business event, the date change ensured that as few people as possible would miss the show because they were on vacation.
For decades it was a bi-annual, held every two years. But due to the rapid expansion of the Canadian oil and gas industry and its growing and diversified service and supply base, it switched to an annual event in 2013.
Like the show itself, this year’s event co-host Cenovus Energy reflects the past, present and future of Canadian oil.
The company’s corporate roots date back to the Canadian Pacific Railway, PanCanadian Petroleum, Alberta Energy Company and EnCana Corp.
Today’s Cenovus is one of Canada’s largest oil sands producers and is expanding its presence on the East Coast offshore with the reactivated West White Rose project.
For the future, Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix’s keynote address to launch the GES technical conference was his vision of a marriage of the old and new, using nuclear power to decarbonize continued oil sands recovery.
While the 2022 GES was scaled back from its glory days, like so many elements of Canada’s battered oilpatch, it was a clear signal that this industry has been down but will never be out.
Another example of the oilpatch’s determination to resume normality was the successful resurrection of the Saskatchewan Oil & Gas Show in Weyburn on June 1 and 2. That event had also been on hold since 2019.
Based on the current global energy realities, “Rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
And just wait until next year.
David Yager is an oilfield service executive, oil and gas writer, energy policy analyst and commentator for the Canadian Energy Centre. He is the author of From Miracle to Menace – Alberta, A Carbon Story.
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