Five hours and about 7,400 km (4,598 miles) separate Houston from Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, but that didn’t stop the two cities with established oil and gas sectors from coming together to expand their knowledge and develop business relationships. As part of the inaugural Aberdeen-Houston Gateway on March 19, two venues – one in Houston and the other in Aberdeen – were linked via videoconferencing, allowing business professionals to communicate during breakfast in Houston and lunch in Aberdeen. The transatlantic event provided a platform for a range of speakers to tout the offerings of both cities, while highlighting some of the challenges and opportunities in the energy field as well as how the two areas could work together to create or improve operations. “One of the key components of change in the North American market that I think brings a high degree of opportunity for the relationship with Aberdeen and for the broader market into Europe is the advent of unconventional drilling here in the United States,” said Varel CEO Jim Nixon. “Those shales have been exploited to dramatically increase the volume of energy being produced here in the United States. It’s not uncommon here in the United States to drill 15,000 ft (4,572 m) measured depth wells with 4,000-ft (1,219-m) laterals or horizontal segments and to do that in between 12 and 15 days.” Calling the feat a “stunning achievement,” Nixon said a relationship with Houston could help establish Aberdeen as the UK entry point to unconventional drilling. However, any action would be dependent on government and environmental concerns. Ian Kirk, managing director of Downhole Products in Aberdeen, pointed out that the UK probably won’t get that opportunity anytime soon, considering Cuadrilla Resources – the only company in the UK known to be exploring shale – announced last week it was delaying drilling until 2014 at the earliest due to environmental impact issues. However, he said that technology is the most important thing to help Europe stay in the energy game. For Rod Christie, CEO and vice president of subsea systems for GE Oil & Gas, keeping the pipeline filled with qualified workers will be a challenge. “Over the next 10 years, there is a substantial talent gap that is going to occur,” adding that it will be a challenge to sustain business without new people entering the industry. Growth in the industry today has driven more demand into the company, its supply base, and its partnerships with universities for R&D, he said. The industry should think about what is needed to help sustain business. “Bringing more people into the industry is going to be critical for us in the future.” Attracting people not only to the industry, but also to the cities in which energy companies operate was also a focus of the event. The quality of life offerings of both Aberdeen and Houston were showcased in two videos, and government officials spoke about energy. “Houston and Aberdeen together are two of the world’s leading centers for energy. For some, the world of energy brings to mind quite simply oil and gas. But as those in the audience know well, it really encompasses far more,” said Houston City Councilman Stephen Costello. “Energy certainly includes oil and gas communities. But it is also methods used to locate resources, advanced engineering and construction to access those resources, the know-how and strategy to move it, trade it and sell it, the legal expertise to defend it, the sense of obligation and responsibility to mitigate environmental cause, and the passion to reinvest it in society.” The business and cultural links between the two cities are long served, and still have potential, said Granite PR managing director Brett Jackson, who conceptualized and organized the event. With growing opportunities brought on by renewable and the unconventional oil and gas sector, he said there has never been a better time to revisit potential business between Aberdeen and Houston. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at