One of the world’s largest and most important energy industry gatherings was cancelled by organiser IHS Markit Ltd. on Sunday amid mounting concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. It was due to start March 9.
CERAWeek has been an annual industry fixture over more than three decades and has become an important forum for its biggest players. This year’s event promised to attract thousands of delegates from around the world. The chief executive officers of Saudi Aramco, BP Plc and Total SA were among those due to speak during the event’s five-day program.
“There is growing concern about large conferences with people coming from different parts of the world,” IHS said Sunday in a statement. “Delegates from over 80 countries were expected to participate in CERAWeek 2020.”
The conference was due to start days after a crucial OPEC+ meeting in Vienna scheduled for March 5 and 6 to address the market impact of the coronavirus. Brent crude prices slumped last week amid predictions that the economic disruption in China caused by the outbreak will destroy much of the demand growth previously forecast for this year.
The energy industry is also under pressure from a glut of natural gas that has depressed prices, along with concerns about climate change and the transition to clean energy. Those themes were set to be the focus of many of the sessions and panel discussions at CERAWeek.
“Sorry to see this, but the right thing to do,” Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said of the cancellation via Twitter.
Last week, International Petroleum Week went ahead in London, but oil producers including BP and Saudi Aramco, trading houses and brokers cancelled many events scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the official event. Other companies, including Spanish oil refiner Repsol SA, didn’t send representatives. IPWeek is the largest oil conference in Europe, usually attracting about 3,000 people, including a who’s-who of the industry in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The cancellation of CERAWeek follows the rise in confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus in the U.S. and elsewhere and as more companies initiate travel bans. On Saturday, the U.S. confirmed the first death, and Washington state declared an emergency after an outbreak. America has warned against travelling to northern Italy and parts of South Korea where the virus is spreading. In Switzerland last week, the Geneva International Motor Show and the Baselworld watch and jewellery show were scrapped.
IHS said it plans to go ahead with CERAWeek 2021 in Houston on March 1-5 next year.