History of PETEX

Petex A Short History   (1986 – 2014)

Written in 2014 by Graham Harman, PETEX Exhibition Manager, 1989 – 2014

“You know something about organising exhibitions…”

It was the start of one of those conversations in 1986 that I knew was going to lead to me volunteering to do something for the PESGB.  Little did I know it was going to lead to a 25-year association with PETEX. Of course in 1986 it wasn’t yet called PETEX, but the PESGB Committee had decided that they should organise an event for its members that they called ‘Computers in Exploration’.

I can’t remember exactly who was on the first committee but I seem to remember Tim Wheatley, Alan Soulsby, Graham Heard, David Cook and Alastair Woodrow being involved, with Karen Whitehead and myself organising the exhibition.

The first show was held in The Institute of Education at London University, just off Russell Square. I think we had 28 exhibitors and just over 630 delegates. Although the largest booth there was only 18sqm we still overflowed the hall into the foyer.

The event was successful so…of course, it was decided to organise another show two years later. This was held at The Methodist Halls opposite Westminster Abbey, by which time we had grown to 34 exhibitors and 810 delegates.

I remember on the opening day the chief electrician standing on the ladder with his eyes closed and his fingers crossed behind his back as he threw on the power!  He had never connected so much equipment to the building’s supply and was a little worried about Landmark’s computer power requirements!!

1992 saw yet another move to a larger venue, this time to Olympia 2 in Kensington. This was the first show featuring a new name and logo – PETEX was born. Coincidentally, the present logo bears many similarities to the original one my wife designed in 1991. The 1992 show was a quantum leap in the history of PETEX. The exhibitor and delegate numbers were greatly increased and the show took on a different look. The slick and painstaking organisation was bought down to earth with a bump when, on the second day, a would-be visitor telephoned to ask if she could bring her dog into the “pet” show. Those exhibitors dismantling their stands late on the Thursday evening were also treated to the bizarre build-up of “Erotica 92”!!

In 1994, PETEX moved to Wembley – a venue that seems to have been condemned by exhibitors and delegates alike. It was as though PESGB members were being asked to visit Outer Mongolia judging by comments. So it was in 1996 that PETEX moved to its favourite resting place – The Business Design Centre in Islington. To my mind, the BDC is just as or even more awkward to get to as Wembley but it does have some excellent local hostelries and restaurants.

Gradually over three successive PETEX’s we outgrew the facilities and we were forced to move in 2002 to a new venue – The National Hall at Olympia.

At least here we were able to get most of the exhibitors on one floor/level. There was however still a hard core of people who thought (and still do) that we should not have moved from the BDC.

In 2010 we moved to yet another new venue – Earls Court 2. This gave us much more space and also enabled us to position the conference and exhibition facilities next to one another.

Sadly, with the demise of Earls Court 2, we have been forced to move yet again this year to ExCel.

This year we expect to have over 150 exhibitors occupying more than 3500sqms and are expecting more than 3500 delegates. Not a bad growth record for 25 years!!

Ultimately, I am proud to have been associated with PETEX for the last 25 years. I have had the pleasure of serving with numerous committee members who have each brought their own individual ideas/style to the table – some good, some bad, but always with the intention of improving the show.

I am also pleased that we have not lost sight of the original PETEX concept in providing its members with a forum/meeting place to discuss/network/show their products and services at a reasonable cost. I hope this premise may long continue.

Finally, I believe that the success of both the PESGB and PETEX has been down to the fact they are both adaptable and have continued to change and evolve with the technologically-developing industry they serve.



  • The first PETEX was preceded by a conference and exhibition called “Computers in Exploration Interpretation” which was held on 10-11 December 1987 at the University of London.  It had 28 exhibitors and 630 delegates.
  • The show was first known as PETEX in 1992.
  • It is an acronym of Petroleum Exploration Technology Exhibition.
  • The first PETEX was held on 9-10 November 1989 at Westminster Central Halls. It was the PESGB 25th Anniversary Conference & Exhibition. It had 34 exhibitors and approximately 810 attendees.
  • PETEX 2014 will be the 13th show
  • 3,501 delegates attended PETEX 2012
  • Between 1994-2014 PETEX Ltd has donated  £2,478,955 to PESGB
  • In 2012 PETEX Ltd donated £603,888 to PESGB