Published 24 November 2020
The Legal, Environmental and Social Prospects of the Term 'Good Oilfield Practice' within the Onshore Upstream Oil Industry: Law in the Making?
(Addendum 24/11/2020) Extractive activities, including petroleum onshore upstream operations, are confirmed to be causing severe social and environmental damage. A number of methods have been proposed to control and mitigate these adverse impacts. A common approach is enforcing companies to adhere to local regulations. However, in cases where these regulations are immature, contracting parties - including states - usually come to an understanding that operators should, alternatively, resort to the principle of ‘good oilfield practice’ (GOP) as their main source of socio-environmental responsibilities.
However, the principal difficulty that is likely to emerge when contractors and operators are referred to GOP as their basis for accountability, is that GOP is a broad concept lacking a precise interpretation and internationally recognised definition. This vagueness and inadequacy will be discussed throughout this paper, before moving on to seek efficient interpretive methods within the social and environmental arena within which oil operations are occurring.
Thus, this article will commence with demonstrating the current understanding and characterisation of the term GOP within a wide range of legal, judiciary, contractual and secondary sources. The second section will be dedicated to highlight some legal and contractual examples where commitment to GOP is a prerequisite. This will entail investigating current legal and mandatory nature of this term as well as the key institutional normative sources of GOP. Mindful of these classifications, in this article, it will be endeavoured to discover the ambiguities and inefficiencies of the present-day comprehension of the concept GOP in order to suggest methods of developing this notion to meet the evolving socio-environmental and human rights expectations of the industry. This will require seeking approaches of incorporating the emerging theories of CSR, business and human rights, and procedural participatory practices into the term GOP and suggesting techniques for their promotion and application within the petroleum industry.