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Oil Industry Leaders Gather in Houston for Offshore Technology Conference

The offshore energy industry gathers in Houston this week ...

The offshore energy industry gathers in Houston this week for the Offshore Technology Conference against a backdrop of high oil and gas prices, strong earnings and the most optimistic outlook since the early 1980s.

Demand is up for the products and services of the companies exhibiting at the show at the Reliant Astrodome complex, and the number of companies that have purchased booth space reflects that higher demand.

This year there will be 2,184 exhibiting companies at the 33rd edition of the show. The number of companies coming to the show has been steadily growing over the past few years, reflecting the comeback in oil and gas exploration.

Key topics this year will include developing fields in ultradeep waters and using e-commerce in the energy business.

This year, the conference is expected to draw over more than 43,000 and occupy almost 400,000 square feet. It will feature 731 companies from 28 countries outside of the United States.

That's still far short of the record set in 1982, when 2,500 companies and 100,000 attendees took up 630,000 square feet of space in the Astrodome complex.

Last year, 43,785 people came to the show, down from 44,749 in 1999.

The two general sessions at the conference will be titled, Commercialization of the ultradeep: What will it take? and eBusiness impact on the petroleum industry: Evolution or revolution.

The ultradeep session will be moderated by Andrew Szescila, chief operating office of Baker Hughes, and will feature panelists from Texaco, Transocean, Shell and Petrobras.

The e-business session will be moderated by Art Schroeder, president of Energy Valley, and will include panelists from Bank of America, BP and Texaco.

New this year at the conference will be three industry breakfasts. The first, on Tuesday, will address financing alternatives for offshore projects. The second, on Wednesday, will deal with how to get the most value from natural gas reserves in the electricity markets. The third, on Thursday, will deals with focus on business opportunities in Kazakhstan.