How successful was the World Gas Conference (WGC) this year in Kuala Lumpur?

COPAN: In addition to serving as the Executive Director of LNG17, I serve as the US representative to the International Gas Union (IGU). I've been involved with the IGU for about 12 years now. What we've seen is an evolution of the IGU from more of a technical organization to one that retains the technical focus but which has also become much more strategic and which has done much more in terms of advocacy for gas around the world. The Malaysian Triennium, which is responsible for this event, has done a fabulous job of raising the profile of natural gas around the world as they have focused on advocating on behalf of the gas industry around the world. I think what has come out of the World Gas Conference here is a much more strategic focus for natural gas while at the same time retaining the technical programs. So, from our standpoint, it has been a fabulous event and the Malaysians have done a terrific job by raising the profile of natural gas around the world.

What are the major differences between the WGC and LNG17?

COPAN: That's actually a fascinating question because the two really are coming together. The LNG business around the world is literally doubling every 10 years. If you went back 25-30 years ago it was strictly a point to point business where for example the Algerians would sign a long-term contract with companies in the US to deliver LNG for X price over the next 20 years. It's much more spot market focused now. You've seen the number of importing countries double over the last 10 years. You've seen the number of producing countries double over the last 10 years. That's supposed to continue over the next 10-year period. As a result, LNG is now about 10% of global gas consumption. Consequently, with LNG being the most flexible way of moving gas around the world, whether it's the WGC or Gastech coming up in London, a major focus of these events has become the LNG business. The LNG events began in 1968 as primarily a technical and commercial conference. The IGU sponsors 3 major events every triennium: The World Gas Conference, the LNG Event, and the International Gas Research Conference. Therefore, LNG17 is part of the IGU's portfolio of events. Over the last 40 years, it has been primarily a technical and commercial conference. However, this will be the very first LNG event that will have a very significant strategic focus in addition to the technical and commercial focus. Most of the emphasis will be on LNG compared with the WGC, which is much broader in nature. Part of our exhibition is going to be a separate pavilion dedicated to ‘LNG For Transportation’. That's going to be part of the focus of LNG17.

To what extent are companies 'inking' deals at events like LNG17?

COPAN: Well, traditionally there have been a significant number of deals worked out at the LNG events. I can't attest to the WGC because I haven't run one of these. The US last October 6th won the bidding to be the President of the IGU 2015 - 2018 and we will be hosting the WGC in Washington D.C. in June of 2018 on the 100th Anniversary of the American Gas Association. The LNG events traditionally have seen a great deal of networking as well as deals being worked through the event. Our exhibition at LNG17 is already at this point 20% larger than any previous LNG exhibition ever held anywhere in the world and we're just under a year out. All the major players will be there; it's truly a global exhibition. The firm that is doing the WGC exhibition is actually doing LNG17. The exhibition will be somewhere between 15-20,000 square meters; that's about one third larger than the WGC and it's all in one hall in one building. There won't be any marquees or tents. Within the exhibition, we've done some unique things. For example, everyday lunch will be served to every delegate in the exhibition hall.  We have a couple of unique pavilions including the ‘LNG For Transportation’ pavilion, which will feature trucks that run on LNG. We're going to have exhibitors that are doing stuff with trucks and marine transport. You often hear discussion about ferryboats and things of that nature. We're also going to have something called the ‘Gas Energy Education’ pavilion because we feel we really want to leave a legacy from this event. We have a number of global universities that have programs in something related to the energy field, specifically in the natural gas field, that will have booths within the ‘Gas Energy Education’ pavilion. We'll have an open-air theater with presentations from a variety of academics on work that they're doing. It will be a way of showing younger people the opportunities at these schools that will exist in the global LNG business.

How will LNG17 differ from previous LNG events?

COPAN: The exhibition component is well underway; we're already 20% larger than any exhibition that's been held. We're already 80% either on-hold or sold. The conference side of it, as I mentioned earlier, used to be technical and commercial; we've now made it much more strategic. We just had 423 abstracts submitted for the technical, commercial, and strategic parts of the program. We're about to announce the program in its entirety based on those 423 abstracts. The number of abstracts was almost 70% higher than any previous LNG event. We've increased the size of the program by 40% with a number of sections that we've added. The conference side of it is coming along very well. We have a global strategy forum that will feature the major producers and importers of LNG around the world at a round-table discussion to offer a '30,000 foot level’ view of what's going on. There will be a great opening ceremony that will feature senior officials from Australia as a major future producer and from Japan as a major importer. More importantly, what will be featured is what LNG meant to the Japanese economy in a post-Fukushima world. We'll have senior level US officials there. It's going to be quite an event; we're expecting about 5,000 people from 80 different countries to be in Houston next April 16th.