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Travel restrictions in the wake of the Omicron variant have disrupted the agenda of the 23rd World Petroleum Congress, which begins in Houston on Monday with a reduced number of participants from overseas.
Eight energy ministers, including the energy minister of Saudi Arabia, have withdrawn from live participation after the new COVID variant disrupted travel as countries rushed to impose tighter restrictions.
According to World Petroleum Congress officials, cited by Reuters, the energy ministers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Greece, Turkey, Romania, and Equatorial Guinea will not be attending the event in person. The chief executive officers of BP, Qatar Energy, and Sonatrach of Algeria will not attend the conference either.
OPEC’s Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo is also part of the program, but he will deliver a speech remotely on Tuesday because of travel restrictions.
The conference, which will run until December 9, will focus on the role of low-carbon technologies and the energy transition.
Yet, some high-profile attendees will not attend in person, as previously announced, due to governments imposing travel restrictions following the discovery of the new highly mutated Omicron variant.
Most countries have already banned flights from South Africa and other countries in southern Africa, where the variant was first detected. Some countries, like Israel and Japan, closed borders to all foreign travelers.
The Omicron variant has rattled the oil market in the past two weeks, as traders and investors panic over a potential new dip in global demand in case travel is further restricted and lockdowns imposed.
Still, some analysts, including Goldman Sachs, believe that the market reaction was “excessive” and that traders have priced in a massive decline in demand to the tune of 7 million barrels per day (bpd) in coming months, which would mean “not a single plane flying around the world for three months.”
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com