Once again, the North American Prospect Expo can be declared a winner.
The early February event at the George R. Brown Convention center in Houston, sponsored by the AAPL and its NAPE partners, AAPG, SEG and IPAA:
- Drew a record crowd of 14,482 attendees.
- Had 885 exhibiting companies (including a number of international firms).
- Attracted 1,450 exhibit booths.
The event is the undisputed kingpin of prospect expos -- but that’s only part of the respected role it plays in the industry.
“NAPE is the networking event of the petroleum industry,” said Lee Billingsley, AAPG president and vice president of exploration at Abraxas Petroleum Corp., which has had a booth at NAPE occasions from the get-go.
“The people attending represent so many aspects of the business -- land, money, geoscience -- it’s really a hugely important networking event,” he said.
The expo kicked off with the IHS-sponsored International Forum, which included an International Prospect Promotion Forum. The day concluded with an Icebreaker, which was “jam-packed, shoulder-to-shoulder”, according to geologist Gerritt Wind of Wind & Associates.
The crowd in the prospect exhibit hall was the expected mix of E&P companies, service companies and financial entities. A flock of small, newly formed E&P companies was evident, which is typical when times are good in the industry.
This time around, however, the new entrants themselves are not necessarily typical.
“These small companies now are financially and technically savvy about the industry,” Billingsley said. “It’s not like a bunch of ‘shoe salesmen’ wanting to do deals in the mid-1980s. These are financially knowledgeable people trying to make good investments.”
Although prospects do get sold on the spot at NAPE, usually the deals are cut later after a thorough review in an office setting.
On the other hand, a number of deals have been known to close before making it to the show -- using what Billingsley refers to as the “NAPE Stick.”
“If you say you’re going to show your prospect at NAPE, then you’re using the threat of a NAPE-like stick,” he said. “That’s one of the values of the expo -- you can show prospects ahead, and just the mention of showing it at NAPE will force a decision.”
One of the smaller companies that first hit the scene at NAPE with a booth a couple of years ago continues to have a presence there. They call themselves The Unconventionals, and they zeroed in on the potential for shale gas several years ago before it became the really cool thing to do like today.
“We’re doing very well,” said Frank Maio, who bills himself as “head honcho” of this band of geologists, geophysicists and engineers. “We have some deals here we generated in the Antrim shale in Michigan, the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and the Floyd in Alabama.
“There’s been an evolution in who might buy a deal,” Maio said. “New companies are wanting shale gas, and everyone -- big and small -- wants resource plays. There’s a whole new tier of potential buyers.”
It’s noteworthy that NAPE has the potential to cause companies to become interested in prospects in a region that previously held no interest for them.
For instance, Benchmark Oil & Gas was showing its first Alaska-based prospect, and company president Robert Pledger noted a large public company came by and was evaluating the prospect, whereas they wouldn’t have considered Alaska before that.
Some of the prospects on display each year reveal more than a tad of humor -- Oakmont Minerals, for example, was showing its Dumbo prospect. When queried about the name, petroleum consultant Dan Muth replied “We’re looking for elephants, and who’s the most famous elephant you know?”
So what can be expected for an encore after this record-breaking NAPE?
“This was our fifteenth show,” said Robin Forte, executive vice president of AAPL,” and it’s grown each year in attendance. “This time, we had 11.5 percent growth in attendees over last year, and we think it will grow again next year.
“It’s big enough that having it go well and smoothly is a big deal to us,” Forte said. “The response from the participants was ‘great traffic, lots of deals bought and sold, lot of networking accomplished, very upbeat.’”