World Petroleum ‘Pivot’ Congress?

You’ve heard of the WPC: the World Petroleum Congress?

What about its counterpart, the WPPC — the World Petroleum “Pivot” Congress?

That could well be the unofficial brand tied to the Congress in Calgary in 2023 when the World Petroleum Council (WPC) hosts its triennial gathering built around the theme: Energy Transition: Path to Net Zero.

For Calgary’s David Layzell, the Congress’s theme speaks volumes. It’s the first time, that a fully-fledged hydrogen discussion will occur at a Congress — and its inclusion symbolizes the theme. That Canada was selected by the WPC to host and cast into action the energy transition theme is particularly germane, given the country’s progress on the hydrogen front.

Layzell, a long-time energy systems thinker, thinks a lot about hydrogen. As a research director with The Transition Accelerator, Layzell is a leading advocate for the role a full-spectrum hydrogen system will play in a transitioning energy world which aspires to get to net zero. The Accelerator has become a major change agent on Canada’s hydrogen landscape.

Layzell chairs the Congress’s hydrogen forum. Along with two vice-chairs — Laurent Allidieres of Air Liquide in France and Osamu Ikeda of Chiyoda Corporation in Japan — he is responsible for selecting the hydrogen-oriented technical papers and posters submitted from around the world, their authors hoping to be invited to present at the September 2023 Congress. From the WPC’s technical paper call:

The use of hydrogen in transportation and stationery power supply is free of on-board carbon emission and offers an alternative climate change solution. This forum will present use cases, efficient and innovative generation processes, distribution, and transportation. The forum will also discuss production pathways comparing their environmental and economic impacts and demonstrate viable technology solutions for the distribution and storage challenges of the tiny molecules.

The hydrogen forum is one of 17 such forums, grouped under four blocks, that capture key themes and topics of a sector transforming itself and diversifying in the process.

Layzell says that, ideally, papers and posters suggested for inclusion will focus on hydrogen’s full value chain. In a world professing net zero aspirations, for example, he points out nearly 50 per cent of emissions in Canada come from the distributed combustion of gasoline, diesel jet fuel and natural gas. That reality offers the petroleum sector new opportunities, suggests Layzell.

“It’s pretty clear those [emissions levels] are not compatible with a net-zero future. So, we either say ‘Shut down the oil and gas sector…or think about the sector making zero-emissions fuels like electricity and hydrogen made without carbon emissions,’” said Layzell. “The value of our section [at this Congress] is that it’s a bit of a wake-up call.”

Layzell points out the petroleum sector in Alberta already produces significant amounts of hydrogen as a feedstock for petrochemical processing and so its logical — and emission-less — evolution as a fuel itself makes sense if “we create an entirely new value chain.”

Layzell and his two vice-chairs have 16 other counterparts, each tasked with selecting the papers and posters that will flesh out the technical program’s framework. Abstracts between 100 and 300 words are due July 7 — and successful submissions will know by the fall if they will be on stage in September 2023. The four blocks cover a broad range of upstream-to-downstream themes.

  • Transition in Exploration and Production (five forums)
  • Transition in Gas and Transportation (four forums)
  • Transition in Refining, Petrochemicals and Products (five forums)
  • Transition in Leadership (four forums)

More information about the submission process can be found at: Welcome - World Petroleum Congress 2023 (

WPC Canada — the Canadian arm of the global Council — officials hope for a strong Canadian showing in the technical forum, which is typically dominated by subject matter expertise from other countries, given the energy transition theme — itself underpinned by a focus on emissions reduction, noted COO Dean Tucker.

“As host country, we have some input into what the program will be like. We took things further this time and really lobbied the international program committee and international secretariat to really press home the point about emissions reduction,” noted Tucker. “There was a great willingness to definitely structure things around transition in different areas of the industry.”

A typical Congress attracts 15,000 delegates from 100 countries, including high-level government officials, politicians and corporate leaders.

That Canada will host an important “pivot” moment in the global sector’s evolution is a testament to what’s already happening here, noted Tucker.

“We’re hoping to be a springboard … so that when everyone comes here, they’ll see what we’re doing and continue to come back. This effort will help Canada be part of that upper echelon of cleantech juggernauts that will transition the world.”

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