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 Crown Estate has confirmed that seven offshore wind extension projects will progress to the award of rights following the completion of its plan-level Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA). Project-specific environmental assessments will be required for each site before the developers seek planning consents under the statutory planning process. Importantly, the plan-level HRA identifies mitigation measures that will be secured.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently published its proposals for business models for carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS). The CCUS forms part of BEIS's package of proposed measures to support the decarbonisation of the UK economy, which includes consultations on reusing oil and gas assets in CCUS projects, the regulated asset base model for nuclear and the facilitation of energy efficiency in the electricity system.