Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to give a keynote address on Monday.
Tillerson said when he was first notified he was going to receive the award - before being nominated by President Donald Trump as top U.S. diplomat - he thought he would merely be interrupting a retirement spent fishing in the mountains.
"I miss all of you", Tillerson said. I miss you as partners.
"It didn't quite work out that way", he said to laughter from the crowd of oil executives and top government energy officials from dozens of nations.
Tillerson accepted the award after traveling to the Group of 20 summit with Trump last week.
Tillerson has been criticized for leading Exxon during a period when the company downplayed climate change and global warming but nonetheless argued unsuccessfully for Trump not to pull the USA out the Paris climate accord.
He also used his speech to talk about the benefits of energy production.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Jozsef Laszlo Toth, president of the World Petroleum Council, said the challenges in the petroleum sector were growing as world population increased and economic development brought a large number of consumers to the market. They also heavily criticized the post-coup crackdowns on dissent, which Tillerson conspicuously made no mention of. He called rule of law and global order, respect for the sanctity of contracts and integrity "crucial elements" for success. "This award is for them - I am here because of what they've achieved".
He noted that the reason for that was that Turkey located on the routes of energy resources' lying.
Tillerson said these projects will enable Europe to diversify its energy sources, thereby improving its energy security.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared eager to get on the good side of the Turkish government today, praising the "courage" of the leadership and the public in resisting last year's failed coup d'etat, saying it amounted to "defending their democracy".
Tillerson and Erdogan did not speak to reporters at the start of their meeting that comes at a moment of high tension in U.S.