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'There is a transition going on': Oil and gas ambassadors optimistic at LAGCOE's Energy Fest

Oct 19, 2022

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OCT 19, 2022 - 4:32 PM

Raleigh Nepveaux at Noble Plastic's Booth - By The Advocate Saff Brad Bowie

Louisiana’s oil and natural gas industry is neither dead nor nearly so.

Mark Zappi, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and executive director of the Energy Institute of Louisiana, said Wednesday that manufacturing chemicals is heavily reliant on non-renewable energy sources and will remain so, likely for decades.

“We can’t quit making chemicals,” he said after presenting a lecture, “Fifty Shades of Green: A View Toward the Future of Energy,” at the Louisiana Oil & Gas Exposition’s Energy Fest 2022 at the Cajundome Convention Center.

“Oil and gas isn’t going anywhere. We need it. There is a transition going on as the technology moves on. We have to move with it,” he said. The issue is how quickly technology will permit other, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind to replace oil and gas. It's not only a matter of creating technology but also doing so in ways to make the innovations affordable and profitable. The federal Energy Information Agency has suggested the oil and gas industries are safe for another 30 years, but Zappi told his audience it might be much longer than that.Oil and gas prices have experienced, in turn, substantial increases and decreases of late that appear to be increasing again, he said. Prices, he added, have always been “crazy,” although he said the prices of oil and gas have settled lately to levels that are sustainable for the industry and for consumers.

Zappi said Louisiana and the energy industry ought to be realistic about how to move forward. That means continuing to plan for drilling for oil and gas, even as those inside the industry weigh the advances of solar and wind, which are likely inevitable.

He said that the skill sets that Louisiana oil and gas professionals have accumulated will probably help position them in creating equipment and processes for transitioning into a world of renewable energy sources. For example, he said, oil and gas companies that work offshore have skills and expertise that might help in harvesting offshore winds for wind power.

Energy professionals, he said, should be cognizant of their opportunities for mastering systems and equipment for using wind and solar. There is “real money to be made,” he said, in selling such equipment to the global market.

“We should be optimistic in Louisiana,” he said.

LAGCOE formally opened its first show in Lafayette since 2017 on Wednesday morning. Sara Bourque, executive director, said nearly 100 exhibitors and show visitors seemed enthusiastic about the layout of the show and program offerings.

LAGCOE planned a Wednesday night reception for visiting international delegations, which includes those from Nigeria, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Christophe Pilut, trade development specialist for the Lafayette International Center, said the reception was planned for the UL Lafayette campus.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who was to greet the reception visitors, arrived at the Convention Center at mid-afternoon. He said he was encouraged that LAGCOE was inviting discussion of renewable energy sources to the oil and gas show, which he said could foster new collaborations and create additional jobs in Louisiana.

Ahmed Khattab, dean of the College of Engineering at UL Lafayette, said it was pleasing that LAGCOE had returned home to Lafayette, where it originated in 1953 and presented the first LAGCOE show in 1955. In a morning presentation at LAGCOE, he spoke about a “smart energy” concentration within the College of Engineering that launched on campus this semester. It will include exposure to machine learning for petroleum engineering, smart drilling, carbon capture and more.

“People are excited about this,” he said.

College of Engineering student ambassadors were expected to shepherd 50 invited high school students around the exposition floor Thursday morning, he said, to get a close look at what study and employment fields might someday be open to them.

Exhibitor Todd Shaw of Mako Products, which specializes in instrumentation and controls, said the show was smaller than he had expected and foot traffic was slow around his booth Wednesday.

“But with us, it just takes one person to come by and it is all worthwhile,” he said. “I talked to four people today — two high-quality prospects — which makes it potentially worthwhile.”

Thursday’s keynote speaker is Carlos Mendez, a former Navy Seal, who will speak from the showroom floor on “Combat Leadership: Build High Performance Winning Teams,” from 11:30 to 1.