International Oil and Gas Law

Course summary

This course provides a grounding in the legal issues arising in the international oil and gas industry. It will begin with an overview of the industry and the key economic and political actors and provide an introduction to the role of oil and gas in international relations and to the economics of the industry.

The course will also introduce the principles of public and private international law relevant to the industry and how these operate in practice with reference to industry-specific contracts, agreements and instruments. There will be a detailed analysis of “upstream” issues and the legal issues surrounding exploration, including a comparative analysis of the different legal regimes surrounding exploration rights and specific problems with exploration, such as joint exploration and exploration in disputed territory.

We will analyse the various commercial arrangements in the industry such as Joint Ventures (with an emphasis on Joint Operating Agreements) and will also look at arrangements regarding infrastructure. We will also cover 'downstream' issues such as the trading and transportation of oil and gas, with reference to industry specific contracts. Finally the course will analyse the particular issues concerning the States as actors in the oil and gas industry including stabilisation clauses, state immunity and international dispute settlement.


  1. Introduction to the oil and gas as industry
    • Industry overview and key players
    • Exploration, production, transportation and trading
    • Basic petroleum economics
  2. Introduction to the legal framework
    • Oil and gas and international politics/ international relations
    • Sources and key principles of private international law
    • Sources and key principles of public international law
    • Historical development of rights (law of capture, etc.)
    • Ownership vs. non-ownership systems
    • Arrangements with host governments - Comparative Analysis of:
      • Licences/Concessions
      • Production Sharing Contracts
      • Service Contracts
  3. Exploration I - Rights to explore for and produce oil and gas
  4. Exploration II - Cross-border development and the impact of public international law
  5. Commercial Arrangements I - Joint Ventures and the Joint Operating Agreement
    • Purpose and historical background (AIPN and OGUK models)
    • Main provisions
    • Operatorship and liability
  6. Commercial Arrangements II - infrastructure and services
    • Decommissioning and decommissioning security
    • Service contracts/sub-contracts
  7. Commercial Arrangements III - acquisitions and disposals
    • Buying and selling upstream assets
    • Asset vs. share transactions, farm-in agreements
    • Risk allocation
  8. The transportation and trading of oil and gas
    • Offtake, lifting and marketing/sale of production
    • Oil and Gas trading agreements
    • Oil and Gas charter parties
  9. Legal issues involving states, including
    • The State as a sovereign entity/ contracting party
    • Applicable law
    • Sovereign Immunity
    • Stabilisation Clauses
    • International Investment Protection
  10. Dispute Settlement Processes
    • The role of the national Courts
    • International Commercial Arbitration
    • International Investment Arbitration
    • Inter State dispute settlement

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students should:

  • have a deeper understanding of the legal issues arising in the oil and gas industry
  • have a deeper and more focused understanding of the operation of international law
  • be able to engage in debate as to the efficacy of the different solutions to the legal issues arising in the industry and to be aware of the economic and political aspects underpinning the various legal issues.


4000-word essay (60%); assessed course work (20%); participation in online activity (20%).

Terms and conditions

Please note the University reserves the right to make variations to the contents of programmes, including the range of courses offered, and the available choice of courses in any given year may change.

Find out more about the University's terms and conditions