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Practice Area Definition

Oil & Gas Law Definition

The oil and gas industry encompasses the entire life cycle of oil, natural gas, and associated hydrocarbons (commonly referred to as “oil and gas”). All stages are included – from exploration through production, processing, transporting, and sales.
 
The industry is commonly organized into upstream, midstream, and downstream sectors. The upstream sector involves exploration and production, the midstream – refining, processing, and transportation – and the downstream sector – trading and sales.
 
Oil and gas law primarily concerns contractual, real property, and regulatory aspects that underpin the industry. Oil and gas lawyers tend to specialize in commercial, regulatory, or dispute resolution practices. They are typically involved from the outset of their clients’ activities, including in corporate organization and tax planning. Oil and gas lawyers also assist with mergers and acquisitions, asset acquisitions and divestitures, risk management strategies, dispute resolution (either with industry parties or stakeholders), and regulatory compliance.
 
Although it shares many commonalities with its global counterparts, Canadian oil and gas law also has certain unique aspects, in part because the majority of Canada’s oil resources are contained in oil sands or found in remote and harsh environments such as the northern Rocky Mountains, the Canadian arctic, and the North Atlantic offshore. Some of those areas are subject to either unsettled land claims or treaty disputes advanced by First Nations and other aboriginal groups.
 
Production of oil sands oil requires the application of innovative extraction technologies and large scale industrial processes. The associated intellectual property is highly valued and closely guarded. Canada is also highly dependent on its various pipelines and railways to transport crude from oil and gas producing centres to market. The development of new markets outside of North America – and means of accessing those markets – is a high priority. 
 

Often, oil sands projects involve structuring complex joint ventures among sophisticated parties. Similarly, oil sands projects, as well as transmission pipeline projects, require their proponents to secure extensive and complex regulatory approvals. The approval process is becoming increasingly contentious, protracted, and uncertain. The potential carbon emissions associated with oil sands production have attracted attention and opposition in Canada and abroad. Project proponents are responding by placing increasing importance on careful environmental management (including through innovation and the application of new production technologies) as well as meaningful involvement of affected aboriginal groups. Canadian oil and gas lawyers are playing prominent, and essential, roles in all of these arenas.

Douglas Crowther, Q.C. and Michael Hurst, Co-Chairs of the Energy Practice
Dentons Canada LLP

Dentons Canada LLP logo

The oil and gas industry encompasses the entire life cycle of oil, natural gas, and associated hydrocarbons (commonly referred to as “oil and gas”). All stages are included – from exploration through production, processing, transporting, and sales.
 
The industry is commonly organized into upstream, midstream, and downstream sectors. The upstream sector involves exploration and production, the midstream – refining, processing, and transportation – and the downstream sector – trading and sales.
 
Oil and gas law primarily concerns contractual, real property, and regulatory aspects that underpin the industry. Oil and gas lawyers tend to specialize in commercial, regulatory, or dispute resolution practices. They are typically involved from the outset of their clients’ activities, including in corporate organization and tax planning. Oil and gas lawyers also assist with mergers and acquisitions, asset acquisitions and divestitures, risk management strategies, dispute resolution (either with industry parties or stakeholders), and regulatory compliance.
 
Although it shares many commonalities with its global counterparts, Canadian oil and gas law also has certain unique aspects, in part because the majority of Canada’s oil resources are contained in oil sands or found in remote and harsh environments such as the northern Rocky Mountains, the Canadian arctic, and the North Atlantic offshore. Some of those areas are subject to either unsettled land claims or treaty disputes advanced by First Nations and other aboriginal groups.
 
Production of oil sands oil requires the application of innovative extraction technologies and large scale industrial processes. The associated intellectual property is highly valued and closely guarded. Canada is also highly dependent on its various pipelines and railways to transport crude from oil and gas producing centres to market. The development of new markets outside of North America – and means of accessing those markets – is a high priority. 
 

Often, oil sands projects involve structuring complex joint ventures among sophisticated parties. Similarly, oil sands projects, as well as transmission pipeline projects, require their proponents to secure extensive and complex regulatory approvals. The approval process is becoming increasingly contentious, protracted, and uncertain. The potential carbon emissions associated with oil sands production have attracted attention and opposition in Canada and abroad. Project proponents are responding by placing increasing importance on careful environmental management (including through innovation and the application of new production technologies) as well as meaningful involvement of affected aboriginal groups. Canadian oil and gas lawyers are playing prominent, and essential, roles in all of these arenas.