As the Offshore Technology Conference got under way in Houston last week, it bore signs of these pandemic-riven times: the masks we've grown all too familiar with, but which in some cases sported energy-industry pride or company logos; the omnipresent hand-sanitiser stations; the awkward elbow bumps; and hybrid events featuring in-person speakers sharing the stage with other faces beamed in on TV screens from distant locales.

With Covid-19 cases spreading locally and taxing the resources of Houston-area hospitals, show organisers and many attendees took safety precautions to minimise the risks at OTC 2021: from rows of seats reserved for social distancing to clear partitions between panellists, and the use of masks encouraged while indoors.

The parking lots and assembly halls at the vast NRG Center in Houston were not as full as in pre-Covid years at OTC, but those who did gather got to enjoy face-to-face discussions with new and old industry contacts as well as a lineup of speakers offering insights on the offshore oil and gas industry, its energy transition and new technologies.