August 2020 saw the publication of two documents which will have a significant bearing on developments in the oil and gas industry in the next decade and are closely related. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a response to its consultation on the reuse of oil and gas assets for carbon capture, usage and storage projects, while the Oil and Gas Authority published its final report on UK Continental Shelf energy integration.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) recently launched a year-long UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) mediation pilot, which aims to test the extent to which mediation can assist in resolving disputes involving licences in the UKCS. The OGA has consistently emphasised that it would prefer to exercise its influencing rather than its regulatory role in assisting the industry to achieve the Maximising Economic Recovery Strategy for the United Kingdom, and sees mediation as a potentially helpful option.
The past 12 months have seen increased efforts by environmental activists to disrupt the business of oil and gas companies (or those associated with them) and draw attention to their campaigns against the use and production of fossil fuels. Public statements by groups such as Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion suggest that this trend is likely to continue. Two recent cases provide some indication of the extent of any protection which may be sought from the courts in the event of disruption.
The Commercial Court recently decided that the right of non-operators to vote to remove an operator at will in a joint operating agreement (JOA) was not subject to any implied constraints, including good faith. As similar clauses are an option in the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators 2012 Model International JOA and continue to exist in a number of North Sea JOAs, this decision will be of wide commercial interest to operators and non-operators in the oil and gas industry.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) recently published its guidance on handling enquiries according to the Energy Act 2016. The guidance may prove useful to parties which find themselves subject to an enquiry, as it will provide them with an indication of the process that the OGA will follow. However, there are limits on the comfort offered by such an expectation, as the OGA has made clear that it will apply the guidance flexibly.
The Oil and Gas Authority recently released updated guidance on planning and gaining consent to UK Continental Shelf field developments. The guidance is intended to assist those involved in planning a new field development and obtaining the consent required to proceed with a field development plan. The guidance was created with the industry's input to try to achieve consistent and successful high quality and high value projects.
The Oil and Gas Authority recently released its UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) Technology Insights and Southern North Sea Salting Study reports. The reports focus on current work taking place in the industry to develop technical solutions to maximise economic recovery of UKCS hydrocarbon resources.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has published guidance on the development of supply chain action plans (SCAPs) in respect of all new projects, including decommissioning. In introducing SCAPs into the offshore oil and gas industry, the OGA is highlighting the importance of relationships with the supply chain in maximising the economic recovery of the UK Continental Shelf and unlocking the full potential of the basin.
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.