An estimated 12,000 attendees, including 600 speakers from more than 40 countries around the world, have filled the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, this week to assess, discuss and celebrate the 27th World Gas Conference (WGC).

The U.S. natural gas industry and its customers have come a long way since the triennial world conference was last held in this country in 1988, at a time when the competitive natural gas market was gradually being established across North America.

This year’s upbeat event, which is held every three years in the country holding the presidency of the International Gas Union (IGU), started off June 25 with the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corp, leading up to the welcome speech by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and followed by a performance by the Harlem Globetrotters.

Getting down to business, the CEOs of prime sponsors ExxonMobil and Chevron Corp. decried the Trump Administration’s new tariffs, which may harm world trade and slow energy growth.

Following up, an impressive panel of the leading global CEOs proclaimed natural gas a destination fuel, not just a bridge. Participants included BP plc CEO Bob Dudley, who shared an afternoon plenary with Qatar Petroleum CEO Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Total SA CEO Patrick Pouyanne, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance and Equinor ASA’s Tor Martin Anfinnsen, executive vice president of marketing, midstream and processing.

Producers and customers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) held more than one discussion session, with confirmed speakers including Yalan Li, Board Chairperson of the Beijing Gas Group Co. Ltd., along with representatives of Korea, Japan and Indonesia.

At least two LNG contracts were actually signed on-site. The utility Polish Oil & Gas Co. (PGNiG) on Tuesday agreed to take natural gas exports over 20 years from two separate proposed projects: one for exports from Venture Global LNG’s two planned Louisiana projects — Calcasieu Pass and Plaquemines LNG — and a second for supplies from Port Arthur LNG, a subsidiary of Sempra LNG & Midstream.

The WGC is the creation of the IGU. As a member of IGU, the American Gas Association is the official host of this year’s week-long event.

“The United States is both the world’s largest gas producer and consumer, making us the ideal host for this global conversation,” said AGA CEO Dave McCurdy. “Natural gas has been playing a crucial role in revitalizing domestic industries, reducing emissions to their lowest point in 25 years, and creating important jobs in our economy.”

The 350 companies filling booths and pavilions in the exhibit hall include all the major producers, plus exhibits featuring sustainable energy, robotics, automation and gas-for-transportation.

“WGC is committed to providing speakers on all segments of the gas value chain, and at various breakout sessions will address additional critical business issues facing the industry currently,” said a conference spokesperson.

(As an exhibitor at WGC, NGI is drawing continuous interest at its booth and helping spread diversity with the live streaming of World Cup Soccer matches. At one point, several WGC viewers from Denmark were shoulder-to-shoulder with France supporters, as the two teams battled each other on the field. It was a scene to be repeated later with conference attendees from Nigeria and Argentina. Stop by and say hello at Booth 1208, where NGI is featuring its newsletters, data and maps. Be sure to check out our latest service, Mexico Gas Price Index. In addition to checking the latest World Cup score, enter to win an autographed and framed Lionel Messi jersey.)