The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) recently opened a consultation seeking views from the oil and gas industry on its proposal to increase the levy (which is payable by all offshore petroleum licensees and is its primary source of funding) to support the creation and then maintenance of a UK National Data Repository. The OGA proposes that the increased levy will be balanced through the removal of the corresponding common data access limited membership fees, resulting in an overall neutral cost to the industry.
In 2016 the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy announced that in all future corporate transfers subject to ministry approval it would consider requiring security from the seller establishing a secondary liability for future decommissioning costs. The ministry will require any seller of a licensee or of a licensee's parent company to provide an unlimited parent company guarantee. However, questions have been raised about the robustness of the security achieved by the guarantee.
The Court of Appeal recently upheld a High Court decision in which an oil company was found in contempt of court for holding an operating committee meeting in the absence of an alleged defaulting party. In doing so, the English courts have confirmed a willingness to intervene on an interim basis to preserve the status quo and prevent remedies available under a joint operating agreement from being exercised, pending the resolution of the issue in dispute by means of arbitration.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently published its long-awaited Clean Growth Strategy. The strategy was produced to comply with the Climate Change Act 2008, which requires a report setting out proposals and policies for meeting carbon budgets. Notable policies include the return to favour of carbon capture, usage and storage and confirmation that solar panels installed with a battery will attract a reduced value added tax rate.
Argentina has established a long-term state policy for energy development, which encourages the use of non-fossil fuels suitable for environmental protection and economic sustainability. In pursuance of this goal, the Ministry of Energy and Mining launched a set of tender proceedings for the procurement of electrical energy from renewable sources. Following the success of Rounds 1 and 1.5, Round 2 was recently published with the aim of adding 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy to the interface system.
The government recently approved a decree-law which establishes the legal framework for medium, high and low-voltage private service electrical facilities powered by the public service electric network and temporary and itinerant self-generation facilities. The law will enter into force on January 1 2018 and revoke the Electrical Facilities Licensing Regulation, as amended, but only with regard to the provisions applicable to private service electrical facilities covered by the new framework.
The government and the House of Representatives recently agreed to prioritise the Bill on Palm Oil's enactment in 2017. This is despite the fact that the bill has been subject to criticism, particularly from environmental activists, who argue that there is no urgency for its enactment as most of the provisions are already contained in the Plantation Law. Regardless of the controversy surrounding its enactment, the bill contains a number of key provisions.
Disputes are a significant risk in any energy project. As such, the Cabinet recently issued a model exploration and production agreement for petroleum activities. However, production-sharing contracts such as the agreement have frequently been the subject of international commercial and state investment disputes. It is therefore questionable whether the dispute resolution mechanism provided in the agreement allows for the efficient management of any potential disputes that may arise.
Italian energy company Enel Green Power recently launched a qualified energy supplier subsidiary in Mexico, through which it intends to acquire at least 150 large customers. Enel plans to make a substantial bid to commercialise electric power, clean energy certificates and energy solutions for commercial and industrial users. This type of private investment is a clear example of how the Mexican energy reform has led to the emergence of new players that were previously unable to participate in this sector.
Under the existing legal framework, the state owns all mineral resources in China and the allocation of mining rights is heavily regulated. However, the various courts have different understandings of the relevant laws and regulations and judgment criteria for mining right disputes vary from court to court. As such, the Supreme People's Court recently issued an interpretation on the application of law in hearing cases involving mining right disputes.
The National Infrastructure Commission recently published its draft National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) for 2018 for public consultation. The report is wide ranging, addressing systemic deficiencies in areas including housing, transport, telecoms and flood provisions. The draft NIA's central question in respect of energy infrastructure is how a low-cost, low-carbon energy future can be achieved, as well as potential funding models for a post-Brexit future.
To promote a more conducive investment climate, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources recently simplified and streamlined the procedures for the application of upstream and downstream oil and gas-related licences through the Regulation concerning Licences in the Field of Oil and Gas. The new regulation has introduced some welcome changes – namely, licence applications can now be made online and most licences can now be issued within 10 to 15 calendar days.
The National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) recently announced the tender for the commercialisation of hydrocarbons that the state obtains as consideration in exploration and extraction contracts. The CNH indicated that the tendered services will consist of the company that wins the tender selling the hydrocarbons when they are delivered by the private company that extracted them. This action is another example of the new business opportunities that the recent energy reform has introduced.
In 2016 Law 4389/2016 introduced the sale by auction of electricity forward products with physical delivery by the Greek vertically integrated Public Power Corporation (PPC) to eligible electricity suppliers. The purpose of these auctions is to reduce the PPC's retail market share in the interconnected system, enhance competition and provide better quality products and lower prices to consumers.
The government recently published the Draft Domestic and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill. The bill's purpose is to provide for a temporary price cap for domestic consumers on standard variable tariffs and default tariffs. The cap will be set by the independent energy regulator, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, and is temporary in nature, lasting until the end of 2020, with the potential to extend it for a further three years if needed.
To date, there has been a lack of clarity on the role that distribution network operators can play in the development, ownership and operation of electricity storage. As part of the commitment to remove regulatory barriers in relation to the storage market contained in the Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets is consulting on changes to the electricity distribution licence.
The Brazilian National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels recently published Notice of Public Consultation and Public Hearing 20 in order to collect input regarding the new rule which will increase the flexibility of the local content rules provided for in concession contracts entered into between the seventh and 13th bidding round for onerous assignment, as well as the first production sharing bidding round of the exploration of oil and natural gas blocks.
The Krk liquefied natural gas terminal project changed course when the government decided to construct a floating terminal instead of the initially planned land-based terminal. The reason for this decision was to make the terminal operationally faster and reduce costs, since it was clear that the deadlines for making the land-based terminal operation were unattainable. Since the deadlines for building the terminal are short, LNG Croatia is simultaneously undertaking several activities in order to meet them.
The initial expectation from some market analysts with respect to the outcome of Brazil's 14th bidding round was conservative, with Brazil's political turmoil and the downturn in the oil and gas sector clearly inciting this uncertainty. However, it seems that the government's initiative to extend the special customs regime for the import of rigs, vessels and equipment until 2040, as well as its adjustment of the rules in relation to local content requirements, ensured the round's success.
Following the recovery and stabilisation of oil prices, an increasing number of oil companies on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) are looking for new ways to advance developments by cooperating with contractors. Some companies are looking for a stronger commitment from their suppliers and have introduced a cooperation scheme whereby the parties share a greater portion of risk for profit or loss. However, a number of challenges may arise from such contractual structures with regard to NCS projects.