Once upon a time I wrote about most aspects of the oil industry, including, occasionally, pipelines, gathering systems, compressors, etc. Then my publisher decided I should focus on exploration, and I’ve rarely looked back. (There was that one last-minute feature on tubulars, but we won’t go there.)

So I’m very comfortable attending shows like SEG, AAPG, and EAGE. I have at least a general grasp of the technology and know enough to ask the experts the write the stuff that I still don’t understand.

This week I had to step way outside my comfort zone. It started simply enough – my husband was planning to attend the annual Gas Processors Association (GPA) meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and he wanted me to go to the Tuesday evening festivities since they featured a band that dresses up like the Fab Four and does a bunch of their old hits. (I am a huge Beatles fan.) This all seemed doable – fly to San Antonio Tuesday afternoon, attend the event, spend the night, and drive back with my husband Wednesday morning.

If only it had been that simple. My husband, clever dude that he is, is aware of the fact that Hart produces the show dailies at GPA. What if, he wondered, I attend the entire conference and offer to cover a couple of sessions for the newspaper – wear both my reporter and corporate wife hats simultaneously, in other words.

The idea had its merits. I’d attended a few GPAs in the past and was impressed by the vast number of hospitality suites, all offering great food and, of course, free wine. I was less certain about the show coverage, but I figured that if I asked for the more general assignments and let our gas processor reporters cover the technical stuff, I should be OK.

WRONG. The first session I covered was on a new rule that the EPA is proposing that affects how compressor engines are overhauled. I wish I could tell you more about it, but that’s about as much as I gleaned.

The second session was supposed to be on the price outlook for natural gas liquids but was all over the map. One speaker basically preached the gospel of natural gas and encouraged his listeners to do the same. Another had so many charts tracking pipeline expansions that I became rather bleary-eyed. The third guy talked about Canadian oil sands and how commodity prices and pipeline constraints may affect the availability of diluent, a necessary ingredient to turn heavy oil and bitumen into anything that is of use. Him I understood well enough to at least write a 650-word article.

I left after the third speaker because I was on deadline. It’s probably a good thing, too, because the fourth speaker apparently asked more than once if there were any reporters in the room.

In addition to not understanding the technical sessions, I also barely knew anyone there other than a couple of people my husband worked with at Phillips 25 years ago. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I can strike up a conversation with a turnip – but after attending so many SEGs and feeling like I was at a high school reunion, it was strange to find a whole segment of the industry that I don’t know at all.

So I guess they say new experiences are good for us. But experience is also a good teacher, and what I’ve learned is that I’ll stick to the hospitality suites at GPA from now on and let someone else do the writing.