March 6, 2020 / 7:29 PM / 25 days ago

Oil industry scraps events, eyes teleconferences as coronavirus spreads

(Reuters) - The oil and gas industry is canceling key networking events and academic and technical meetings, shifting some to virtual conferences, due to concerns about the coronavirus and its fast-growing toll of more than 100,000 cases worldwide.

A major energy conference planned by investment firm Scotia Howard Weil in New Orleans in late March may go virtual, a spokesperson for the company said on Friday, suggesting speakers could present via webcast. No official decision had been made, she added.

That conference, which would feature presentations from major firms like Schlumberger (SLB.N) and Occidental Petroleum Corp (OXY.N), is typically a chance for energy companies to discuss quarterly earnings and their outlook for the year.

The Society of Petroleum Engineers rescheduled its Latin American and Caribbean Petroleum Engineering Conference in Bogota, Colombia, citing public health concerns, according to its website.

In addition, oil companies and service providers have started cancelling events planned around the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) annual meeting in Austin, Texas, from March 22-24. The conference itself is still scheduled to go ahead, an AFPM spokesman said.

Austin on Friday said it would cancel its South by Southwest music and tech festival amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The City of Austin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether AFPM would be canceled.

Price reporting agency S&P Global Platts has canceled a planned event, according to a spokeswoman. Oil major BP (BP.L) and Total SA’s (TOTF.PA) trading arm Atlantic Trading & Marketing Inc are not hosting any events this year, sources familiar with the matter said. Neither company was immediately available for comment.

The CME Group, LOOP and Matrix Markets also canceled a networking reception planned around AFPM, the companies said on Friday in an email.

This week S&P Global Platts told employees at its Canary Wharf office in London to work from home until further notice after a visitor was diagnosed with the virus.

Commodity broker Marex Spectron said this week that one of its London employees had tested positive for the virus. The same person had attended a company-sponsored event during London’s IP week, a major oil industry gathering.

Last week, IHS Markit canceled its annual CERAWeek energy conference, one of the world’s largest gatherings of oil ministers and executives, which was to kick off in Houston on March 9.

Reporting by Liz Hampton and Devika Krishna Kumar; Additional reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Tom Brown and Leslie Adler

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