One of the true pleasures of my job comes from the opportunity to attend energy industry conferences. I admit I’m biased, but I think our Hart Energy events are among the best around and I continue to hear positive comments about what we do.

Just today a midstream executive in Dallas called to say how much he enjoys our events. He wanted to confirm whether Hart Energy’s annual DUG Permian Basin conference will return to Fort Worth, Texas, in 2018.

Yes, it will, May 21-23 at the Fort Worth Convention Center, I told him. And while we’re talking Texas, remember that our great Midstream Texas event will be June 5-6 in Midland, I added. Oh, he forgot about that one but he would try to make it. He added that he has some big projects going on out in the Delaware Basin and he wants to keep up to date on what’s happening.

There are other excellent industry gatherings as well. Our friends at GPA Midstream hold a great convention every April, this year with an Austin, Texas, venue. CERAWeek, scheduled for every March in Houston, is among the best anywhere for high-level energy discussions.

So what do I like about conferences? They provide a great opportunity to get a feel for what’s going on out there in the oil patch. What’s new? What’s changing? What’s the buzz?

I made some notes on what I have picked up, big and small, from conversations at major gatherings so far in 2018. They give some good pointers for all of us as we approach the year’s midpoint. Among them:

  • The industry is back—By one very basic measure—conference attendance—interest has returned. Analysts note a change in attitude on Wall Street too. Crude oil at $60 may not be crude oil at $100, but it can be profitable and it shows.
  • Peak demand has replaced peak supply—This is a flip-flop from a decade ago when Peak Oil theory said the world’s oil supply was running out. Supply no longer causes nervousness. Rather, the conversation topic is what impact electric vehicles, solar and wind power, climate change worries and trends will have on the energy mix.
  • The United States is now at the top—The turnaround in domestic oil and gas production is, frankly, a story of the century in my opinion. The swelling output of U.S. producers has OPEC, Russia and other big producers on the defensive. It’s also a challenge to the nation’s midstream: How do we get all of that production to our ports and borders?
  • The money is there—Given investor sentiment, private-equity providers and the stock markets seem ready to fund projects that make sense. The problem may be finding projects that do make sense. It’s unlikely there will be new, big shales plays anytime soon. The challenge is to properly plumb what we have.
  • The social license—There is a disconnect between the energy business and the amount of energy needed to sustain the lifestyles the public enjoys. How can we change that? I recall environmental extremists protesting a Hart Energy conference in Pittsburgh; a small group of demonstrators was listening speakers who stood in the bed of an idling crew-cab pickup. What’s wrong with this picture?
  • Technology, its pluses and minuses—The Internet and growing computing power allow companies and individuals to do things unimaginable just a few years ago. That’s the good. The bad is the web creates the potential for serious crime and disruption. The challenge is how to enjoy one and avoid the other.
  • The smaller shale plays are back—Hart Energy’s first-quarter DUG Haynesville conference in Shreveport, La., had a packed house for every session. (Be sure and see the conference update in this issue.) And—dare I say it—the Barnett may be stirring again.

Further insights on how oil and gas in general and the midstream in particular are faring feature in this issue. Our third annual Midstream 50 rankings return and there are some interesting reasons behind the moves up and down that occurred in 2017. Also, be sure to check out our annual Midstream Capital Formation supplement that accompanies this issue. It features background on the investment side of the business.

As always, our goal is to make Midstream Business a must-read for the sector. A lot is happening there, and we want to provide you with usable information via our magazine, our website and our Hart Energy conferences.