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Find Lawyers in Australia for Oil and Gas Law

Practice Area Overview

The term “hydrocarbons” includes oil, condensate and natural gas.

Oil and Gas law deals primarily with the ownership, discovery, commercialization and sale of hydrocarbons.  It is, however, a broad area and can include complex issues such as the law of capture and unitization where permits straddle the same reservoir.

Ownership of hydrocarbons in the ground is often reserved to the State or, in some parts of the world, to the owner of the land.

The right to explore and develop discovered hydrocarbons is usually granted by a permit or contract with the State or with the landowner, depending on the jurisdiction.

The industry is heavily regulated, especially in relation to safety and environmental issues.

Obviously, various events have highlighted those issues and regulators throughout the world have focused even more on them in recent times.

Permits, approvals and a “safety case” are invariably required in relation to most activities in the industry.

Lawyers in this area are frequently involved in the initial permitting, regulatory approvals, seismic acquisition and other technical aspects, drilling contracts, construction of structures both offshore and onshore and lifting arrangements and marketing and offtake agreements.

In addition, issues such as environmental law, safety, industrial relations, maritime law, financing, risk allocation, insurance and tax are invariably material in oil and gas projects.

Contracts for activities performed “offshore” usually manage risk in ways peculiar to the industry, including “knock for knock” indemnities and bespoke forms of insurance.  The management of risk in an offshore field where various contractors and third parties may be present can involve complex risk arrangements in order to minimise the risk of protracted disputes when losses occur.

An offshore oil and gas project may involve specifically oil and gas facilities such as Floating (Production) Storage and Offtake vessels (FPSOs or FSOs) (including “Floating LNG”), platforms, wellhead platforms, pipelines and other structures.

The construction and installation of these types of structure involves a high level of risk and very significant cost.  The contracts regulating these activities need to be very clear in the allocation of risk amongst the various parties.
Peter Smith Johnson Winter Slattery

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