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Houston Hosts World Petroleum Congress at Critical Juncture for the Energy Industry

Published Dec 10, 2021 by A.J. Mistretta

Shellebarger at WPC

Jeff Shellebarger, chair of the WPC Houston organizing committee, opens the conference (courtesy: WPC)

WPC took place at the George R. Brown Convention Center

As momentum builds for the global energy transition to a low-carbon future, roughly 5,000 energy leaders from 70 nations gathered in Houston this week for the World Petroleum Congress (WPC). 

Houston hosted the international conference for the first time in more than 30 years as the region looks to leverage its infrastructure and knowledge base to develop new low-carbon solutions and lead the global transition. 

“As the energy capital of the world, Houston and Houston companies are leading the way for the future of the energy industry,” Mayor Sylvester Turner told the audience in the conference’s opening keynote address. “We have challenged ourselves not to just talk about the energy transition but to help lead the energy revolution.”

In June, the Greater Houston Partnership released a blueprint for how Houston can lead the global energy transition, with an emphasis on specific emerging technologies, and launched the Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI). The strategy calls for a regional approach centered around carbon capture, use and storage; plastics recycling; developing a low-carbon hydrogen hub and creating new battery and energy storage solutions. The strategy further emphasizes the need to attract and support “new energy” companies in the region and establish an ecosystem to accelerate growth in sectors ranging from electric vehicle systems to geothermal energy production. 

Bobby Tudor, who chairs HETI and is also the chairman of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., participated in a keynote panel discussion during WPC where he discussed Houston’s critical leadership role in the energy transition. 

“Houston has a responsibility and an opportunity to leverage our energy leadership to accelerate global solutions for a low-carbon future,” Tudor said during his presentation. “The challenge of our time is the energy transition. The Houston Energy Transition Initiative is rooted in the city’s eagerness for innovation; our appetite for high-risk and high-reward business investments; and our capacity for executing on massive, complex projects around the world.”

An analysis from McKinsey & Co. suggests that Houston could gain as many as 560,000 new jobs by 2050 if the region takes decisive action in the transition. However, inaction is likely to cost the region hundreds of thousands of jobs. 

“It’s obvious to us at the Partnership, and the vast majority of the energy companies we work with, that the energy industry model that has served Houston’s economy—and that of other energy-focused regions—so well over the last few decades must adapt and change if it is to continue driving economic growth,” said Bob Harvey, President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. “Such change is also necessary for the industry to continue supporting the quality of life for the world’s citizens as their energy needs grow. 

Harvey said Houston has an appetite for risk and innovation – not just in the energy industry but across the economy, including life sciences, aerospace, and digital technology. “The Houston Energy Transition Initiative taps into a new conversation in Houston and opens up exciting new opportunities,” he said. 

Learn more about WPC and Houston’s role in energy transition

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