We received great feedback on our D2 conference last week. Objectively, we performed well – ~400 people showed up to occupy the halls of the Hilton Americas (+70% from last year), all the speakers were present and articulate, and we finished on-time (a rarity in the conference world).  But what separates a good conference from a great conference is the quality of thought it provokes – and by that standard, we had a great conference. We took a chance this year and brought in a wider variety of speakers, in the hopes that diversity would beget curiosity. But I think the conference served to drive home a broader theme: technology is changing the conversation surrounding energy. The ultimate question is no longer “how much energy can we produce?” but “how can we make the process of producing and delivering energy smarter?

The question delivered in many forms at the conference: we are being smarter about energy production through understanding and monitoring our wells (Biota, Reveal), smarter about the distribution of energy to the residential customer (Sunnova), smarter about connecting and automating points on the energy supply chain (Data Gumbo, SitePro), smarter about managing energy assets and information about those assets (Mineralsoft, ThoughtTrace), smarter about monitoring energy infrastructure (Hifi, Ingu), smarter about resuscitating and accessing energy data (Ovation, Blueware, MissionSecure), and smarter about capturing and utilizing by-products of producing energy for non-traditional products (Syzygy, Cemvita).  Some spoke about broader themes that will influence energy: being smarter about handling and harnessing AI (SAS, Humanyze), smarter about “coopertition” and working with unlikely partners (Google), and smarter about transitioning from an E&P company to an innovative energy company (Oxy).

And perhaps another underlying thread to being “smarter” is being “more aware” – more aware of what we produce and how we produce, which can take forms in greater acknowledgement of a changing industry, increased focus on monitoring our production and by-products of that production, and increased discussion on cost and practicality when it comes to alternative fuels. This year was the first year we brought in speakers from what would normally be called “green energy.” As technology is evolving in all parts of energy, we are finding the need for re-categorization – an “upheaval” that is source agnostic.  Topics like solar/storage and carbon capture are no longer “not relevant” to fossil fuel production, just as fossil fuel production cannot be decoupled from a “green transition.”

Energy tech, as we define it, is the scientific knowledge delivered through software, algorithms, materials, chemicals, processes, robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, etc. having to do with the efficient and safe extraction, conversion, transportation, storage and use of energy, with the goal of providing affordable energy while minimizing impacts on people and the planet. This year, D2 provided a living, breathing manifestation of this definition – in the form of the variety of speakers, discussions, and attendees present.  As a firm, we are proud to be a part of this industry and its evolution and strive to continue leading the dialogue at the nexus of energy and science. Until D3!