CERAWeek grows as Houston’s energy industry expands its focus

CERAWeek grows as Houston’s energy industry expands its focus
CERAWeek grows as Houston’s energy industry expands its focus

Once an energy conference focused almost exclusively on oil and gas, CERAWeek by S&P Global is rapidly expanding to include topics that are becoming more crucial to the energy conversation: hydrogen, LNG and minerals.

The annual conference kicks off Monday in downtown Houston, where more than 6,000 people are expected to travel from 90 countries for an event informally known as the “Super Bowl of energy.” It will feature about 600 people speaking on the most comprehensive list of topics in the conference’s 41-year history, said James Rosenfield, senior vice president at S&P Global and the conference’s founder and co-chair.

The Agora beach, which brings together the conference’s technology-focused panels and speakers, has grown to include presentations from 220 startups this year — including many from Houston — that focus on a range of technologies, including battery recycling, solar power and green hydrogen.

INSIGHT: Hydrogen buzz increases at CERAWeek

“What’s fascinating to me is that Texas and Houston, in particular, have a unique role both as a provider of traditional energy at a critical time for energy security, as well as the hub of innovation for new energy,” Rosenfield said.

Organizers also expect more deals to be done at the conference than ever before, he said, citing the demand for conference space that led organizers to take over two floors of the Hilton Americas hotel. “The demand for meeting room space is off the charts.”

The event expands programming to meet the needs of the moment, Rosenfield said. Increasingly, he said, energy leaders, policymakers and investors gather at the conference to learn and absorb new ideas. CERAWeek’s new Clean Technology Accelerator Commons, for example, will bring together entrepreneurs with academic researchers and venture capitalists in a mix intended to advance the energy transition.

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“You end up with this remarkable convergence of the innovation ecosystem in one place for a week in the city of Houston,” Rosenfield said. “It is designed to promote the ideas, connections and new solutions.”

The conference has also given hydrogen its own thread in the conference this year – that program will feature 35 sessions and more than 100 speakers on hydrogen alone.

Hydrogen’s progress during the conference is tied to a flurry of hydrogen-related activity in Houston, said Ken Medlock, director of the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, who is speaking on a CERAWeek panel on the topic. Medlock said he expected Texas-based hydrogen hubs to be the talk of CERAWeek because they have until next month to finalize funding proposals to the Department of Energy.

“The one thing I hope to hear more about is market design,” he said. “It doesn’t exist in hydrogen yet, and I think you need it for growth.”

Medlock said he also expected a focus on the growing importance of liquefied natural gas on the Gulf Coast.

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