During the last World Petroleum Congress held in Calgary, I sat down with the chief executive of BP and talked about Canadian pipeline challenges.The more things change, the more they stay the same.The issue was a proposal to bring natural gas from the Mackenzie Delta, Beaufort Sea and Alaska down south, through Canada, to the lower 48 states.The year was 2000. The CEO was Lord John Browne.But the conversation about a gas pipeline (which was never built) underscores a larger point.Many of the biggest players in the global energy business are drawn to the World Petroleum Congress.And they will be returning to Calgary in September 2023 for an event often billed as the Olympics of the oil and gas industry.The announcement Calgary will host the meeting was made Sunday in St. Petersburg, Russia, after several hours of tense voting to choose between five competing cities. In the end, Calgary edged out Baku, Azerbaijan, in a 21 to 20 vote between member countries.With the decision, some 5,500 delegates are expected to come to Canada and talk about the challenges and opportunities facing the global energy industry.“We think it’s going to be huge,” WPC Canada chair Denis Painchaud said Monday in an interview from St. Petersburg.“Calgary has had a few challenges over the last few years. Hopefully, this is a shot in the arm.”From a purely economic perspective, it should be. The conference will generate an estimated $65 million in direct economic activity, booking 22,000 hotel rooms in the city.But it also shines a spotlight on Canada’s oil and gas sector at a time when it needs more attention.The conference features technical elements and interesting papers, but it also pulls in CEOs and global industry leaders.Back in June 2000, Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney — just months before he became the U.S. vice-president — and Jeroen van der Veer, managing director of Royal Dutch Shell Group, also spoke at the Calgary event.Some of the new leaders will want to meet with Canadian companies and their counterparts in 2023 to talk about technology, emerging trends and potential deals, say organizers.“We can certainly use some foreign investment to help our Canadian companies, either directly or through partnerships from foreign companies coming back to Canada,” added Painchaud.This country has plenty to offer, including the planet’s third-largest oil reserves and prolific natural gas plays.Yet, issues such as energy infrastructure constraints, fickle commodity prices and a drop-off of foreign investment have made it a tough slog for the oilpatch over the past four years.A procession of foreign players has left or sold off some oilsands assets, including Devon Energy, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Statoil.It’d be a stretch to say any summit could solve these problems. But it will provide networking opportunities, bring energy leaders together in the city, and give industry a chance to discuss putting Canada back on the global investment map.
Richard Masson, former chief executive of the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission.
“We are one of the places that has investible assets,” WPC Canada’s first vice-chair Richard Masson, former chief executive of the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission, said from Russia.“The Trans Mountain (expansion) approval last week was sure a helpful thing as we talk to folks over here. The investment climate is going to improve and I think a lot of companies are still going to look at the reserves that we have and say there is a role for them in Canada.”Back in 2000, the World Petroleum Congress came to town during a vastly different era for the domestic industry.The oilsands sector was still near the early stages of a stunning two-decade run that attracted $262 billion of capital investment to the region, much of it from international firms.At that congress, OPEC’s secretary general defended rising oil prices, as crude hovered around US$32 a barrel. Within eight years, oil would soar above $100 per barrel. (On Monday, West Texas Intermediate oil closed at $57.90 per barrel.)Veteran oilman Jim Gray, chairman of the 2000 World Petroleum Congress, points out the event posted a $5-million surplus that helped create bursary programs for many post-secondary students in the country.“It really shone the spotlight on Calgary,” Gray said Monday, touting the benefits of holding the conference in Canada.“It plugs our industry into global opportunities.”The tentative theme for the 2023 congress will be about transformation, and “thinking about how oil and gas companies start to transform themselves to fit with the new world and our CO2 constraints,” said Masson.The event, held every three years, will be hosted in Calgary at both the BMO Centre and Telus Convention Centre, given its sheer size.Telus Convention Centre CEO Clark Grue, who also attended the vote in Russia, said the conference will be a chance to showcase the industry in Canada and be a catalyst for homegrown companies.The excitement of Sunday’s selection process also stands out, Grue added.The contest for the 2023 meeting went through several ballots — the city that garnered the fewest votes was dropped off after each round — and the Calgary contingent started out as the front-runners and won a narrow victory at the end.“For us to win by one vote on the fourth ballot was quite dramatic,” he said.“At the end of the day…we were all just so excited for Calgary and what this can mean for our city.”Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald email@example.com