HOUSTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) – Plans for global energy industry officials to discuss future technologies and low-carbon strategies collided at a conference in Houston Monday with worries over a new coronavirus variant.
The World Petroleum Conference began four days of panels that were expected to feature officials from countries including Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, India and the United States. But a series of withdrawals due to travel restrictions has sapped some of the event’s star power.
Monday’s conference sessions begin with executives from Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Saudi Aramco, Equinor and TotalEnergies laying out their approaches to producing cleaner fuels.
Off the week’s program are eight energy ministers from top oil-producing nations including Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Qatar. Ministers from Argentina, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Turkey and Romania as well as the chief executives of BP, Sonatrach and Qatar Energy also bowed out.
The absences resulted from “travel restrictions and concerns” about the Omicron variant of COVID-19, organizers said. Replacements are being selected, a spokesperson said, including adding BP’s U.S. chief to replace its CEO.
The impact of the virus comes as the industry struggles with shortages of natural gas and power in Asia and Europe from output losses spurred by the pandemic. Energy prices that hit multi-year highs this fall have retreated with travel restrictions.
Oil rose $2.20 a barrel to $72 on Monday on hopes the Omicron variant would be less damaging to demand and after Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of oil producer group OPEC on Friday raised its official selling prices to Asia and the United States.
OPEC and allies last week agreed to release more oil to markets while cautioning the new oil could stop if the coronavirus reduces demand.
(Reporting by Gary McWilliams; editing by Jason Neely)