BP's and QatarEnergy's chief executives have dropped out of the World Petroleum Congress (WPC) that kicks off Sunday in Houston, amid concerns about the fast-spreading Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The WPC organisers confirmed that BP chief executive Bernard Looney would not be attending the in-person conference in Houston, but said he will be replaced as a speaker by David Lawler, the chairman and president of BP America.

“We are pleased to say remarkably few of our speakers and delegates are being impacted by the travel restrictions imposed by their home countries or the US,” the organisers told Upstream in an email.

While some speakers have had to cancel their participation at WPC, “they have been supportive of the programme by offering or recommending their replacement", the organisers noted.

QatarEnergy chief executive Saad Sherida Al Kaabi has also dropped out of the event on rising Covid-19 concerns, Upstream understands.

BP and QatarEnergy did not respond to Upstream queries about their participation at WPC.

The World Petroleum Congress begins Sunday in Houston with the opening ceremony and will continue through 9 December.

More than 300 speakers are likely to participate in WPC’s strategic programmes and technical forums.

In addition, more than 4000 registered attendees from 70 countries and ministerial delegations from at least 16 countries are likely to attend the event, according to the event organisers.

Upstream is producing the official show daily newspapers for the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in Houston this week.

The Congress is one of few prominent global oil and gas events to be held in person during recent months, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted several energy events worldwide in the wake of increased travel restrictions.

Houston also hosted the Offshore Technology Conference in August.

The Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) was held in the United Arab Emirates during November as travel restrictions eased in several countries.

However, fresh virus concerns involving the Omicron variant could affect the prospects for global gatherings in the short term, as more countries bring in fresh travel curbs.