Published 9 June 2022
The international oil and gas industry still dominates the energy markets, in practically all regions of the world and along the way plays a prominent role in the global economy. The process and technology utilized in the exploration, development, production, and transportation of oil and gas are complex, immensely expensive, and capital intensive. The associated transnational commercial disputes, among the various stakeholders, are contractually and legally complicated and involve a huge sum of claims, often leading to protracted and costly proceedings. This paper captures these intriguing aspects of the petroleum industry, in an intelligible and logical progression, accompanying the reader, through a clear descriptive journey, introducing the various stages of the life cycle of a typical exploration and production (E&P) undertaking. The voyage will start from the inception of exploration prospect licensing contracts between the host state and the international oil companies (IOCs), to the collaborative relationship among oil companies in the development and production of oil and gas, culminating in the final stage when the oil and gas fields are no longer economic to produce and the inevitable decisions that await oil companies and states, in what is known as the abandonment and decommissioning phase of the offshore petroleum process facilities and the commencement of the restoration of the field to pre-licensing conditions. In each stage of the life cycle, the study presents an array of contractual and investment disputes that find their way to courts and arbitration institutions. The convoluted nature of these transnational disputes often involves a multitude of complex legal and settlement issues, ranging from challenges to jurisdiction, choice of governing law, and frequent challenges to the awards and enforcement, in what is commonly referred to as the conflict of laws. The last stop in this journey is the presentation of the ongoing debates and views on the evolution of the industry-specific petroleum law or the concept of lex petrolea.