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Energy Disputes

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International energy companies operate in a complex and challenging environment. Investments in the energy sector are often high-value, high-risk transactions involving projects that rely on cutting edge technology. In addition to the technical challenges in this heavily regulated industry, the progressive development of reserves and infrastructure around the globe, and the need for ongoing geographic diversification, have exposed energy companies to increased legal and political risk. In such an environment, despite best business practices, disputes may be unavoidable.

When disputes occur, energy companies expect their lawyers to be true specialists that understand the industry. The Energy Disputes Team focuses entirely on advising and representing clients in the energy sector. Their experience covers all forms of dispute resolution, including international arbitration (both commercial and investor-state), litigation (either of the underlying dispute or in support of arbitral proceedings), expert determination, adjudication and mediation.

CMS is consistently ranked in the Global Arbitration Review ‘GAR30’ of the world’s busiest international arbitration practices and ranked by Legal Week in 2015 in the top 10 litigation firms by revenue. The Energy Disputes Team has a recognised expertise and track record in high value and complex international arbitration and litigation in the energy sector.

As trusted advisers to numerous international energy companies, our energy disputes offering is truly global. We advise clients across the world, from the UK to South America to the Far East. We have significant recent experience in regions such as continental Europe, sub-Saharan Africa (for example, Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Madagascar, Nigeria), North Africa (including Algeria, Egypt, Morroco, Tunisia), the Russian Federation, the Middle East (including extensive experience in Iraq) and Brazil.

Project Advisory and Risk Management

The team also offers a ‘Project Advisory and Risk Management’ service - offering advice on how to avoid disputes at every stage of the lifecycle for major energy projects. As the legal, contractual and regulatory environment in which major projects are delivered becomes ever more complex, proactive management of risk has become a critical part of delivery strategies. 

Our team provides flexible support to help you maximise opportunities and manage time, cost and quality risks that have the potential to impact the successful outcome of a project. This early intervention by our team minimises your risk of a costly dispute, protecting your reputation and your relationship with clients. 

Our services include analysis of documentation and procedures, producing proforma documents and communication strategies, delivery of teach-in workshops to project delivery and commercial teams, regular project surgeries and risk review workshops, telephone helpline providing real-time project advice and post completion reviews.

"The team has an in-depth knowledge of the oil and gas industry and the types of issues company like ours face today."

Chambers, 2021

"They do not waste time on unnecessary activity, but focus on the client request and execute it."

Legal 500, 2021
High­lights of our ex­per­i­ence in En­ergy Dis­putes in the UK
A ma­jor oil and gas com­pany on a USD 250m ICC ar­bit­ra­tion con­cern­ing a North Afric­an pro­duc­tion shar­ing con­tract. The ar­bit­ra­tion is French-lan­guage with a Geneva seat.Twelve LNG and nat­ur­al gas price...
Law-Now: En­ergy Dis­putes
Vis­it Law-Now for leg­al know-how and com­ment­ary


Evol­u­tion not re­volu­tion: Cor­por­ate Re­spons­ib­il­ity and Cli­mate Change
Cli­mate change, sus­tain­ab­il­ity, and ESG are no longer niche areas of in­terest – they have be­come fun­da­ment­al to the way busi­nesses op­er­ate and im­pact the way we live our lives. Com­pan­ies face an im­port­ant...
Where do the dis­putes come from?
A col­lec­tion of inter-re­lated activ­it­ies and busi­ness re­la­tion­ships pose a con­sid­er­able chal­lenge to oil and gas in­dustry play­ers. Pro­jects and sup­ply chains are com­plex, while joint ven­tures can be tested by fin­an­cial con­straints and tight­er profit mar­gins.At the same time, oil and gas busi­nesses are at the fore­front of at­ten­tion from many host states and reg­u­lat­ors as a res­ult of (i) the cur­rent in­creas­ing fo­cus on ESG is­sues and en­vir­on­ment­al tar­gets and (ii) the need for the rel­ev­ant gov­ern­ment to use oil op­er­a­tions as a source of state rev­en­ue. In some re­gions, those chal­lenges are ac­com­pan­ied by loc­al con­tent laws and na­tion­al­ist­ic policies which add to the com­plex­ity. In a gen­er­ally harsh glob­al busi­ness en­vir­on­ment made worse by the COV­ID-19 pan­dem­ic, it is lo­gic­al, that in­dustry play­ers would be wary of dis­putes and their pos­sible con­sequences.
In­ter­view with Jo­hanna Coelho, Leg­al Man­ager, Pet­roRio
What are the key risks that the in­dustry is fa­cing and where are you see­ing the most po­ten­tial for dis­putes? Today, I be­lieve that the main chal­lenge con­sists of align­ing the ne­ces­sary re­duc­tion of risks, costs and im­pacts of ex­ist­ing op­er­a­tions with the de­sir­able in­crease of pro­ductiv­ity and gen­er­a­tion of cash for new in­vest­ments. For the longer term, I think the main chal­lenge that all op­er­at­ors will face is how do you trans­form your hy­dro­car­bon busi­ness in­to something green­er. You can do this by just hav­ing an­oth­er port­fo­lio with oth­er en­er­gies or just by im­ple­ment­ing cer­tain changes in your own oil and gas as­sets. How do you see the force ma­jeure term be­ing ap­plied in the cur­rent cli­mate? What you don’t know is how a pan­dem­ic is viewed by the courts and by the ar­bit­ral tribunals. There’s a lot of jur­is­pru­dence re­gard­ing force ma­jeure clauses, but I think the new com­pon­ent here is the pan­dem­ic. I think that ar­bit­rat­ors and courts will have sym­pathy for the ones who are suf­fer­ing with a pan­dem­ic. Let’s see how they re­act. How li­ti­gi­ous or co­oper­at­ive is the in­dustry right now? I think the in­dustry it­self is quite li­ti­gi­ous, but I think that lit­ig­a­tion is ex­pens­ive. I think that parties are less will­ing, be­cause of the fin­an­cial crisis, to enter in­to pro­ceed­ings to solve prob­lems. I think they will pause and look at the be­ne­fit of hav­ing an ar­bit­ra­tion versus the cost of it, and what they’ll gain from it. You have to look at the long-term pro­spects.
El­ev­ated risks: new­er dangers for oil and gas play­ers
The range of dis­putes that the in­dustry is ex­per­i­en­cing is evolving with the on­set of en­vir­on­ment­al and cli­mate change con­cerns. Cur­rently the in­dustry is de­fend­ing an ever-grow­ing list of cli­mate change cases as act­iv­ists be­gin to be more as­sert­ive, of­ten through ju­di­cial re­view chal­lenges. In 2020, sev­er­al ju­di­cial re­views were brought by en­vir­on­ment­al cam­paign­ers seek­ing to lim­it or pre­vent oil and gas ex­plor­a­tion activ­ity.Al­lied to this, The CMS Oil and Gas Dis­putes Sur­vey re­spond­ents identi­fy protest­or dis­rup­tion as a ma­jor area of risk for oil and gas play­ers. A range of protest ac­tions have oc­curred seek­ing to dis­rupt both on­shore and off­shore oil and gas op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing in the frack­ing in­dustry.The CMS Oil and Gas Dis­putes Sur­vey par­ti­cipants also ac­know­ledge the risks as­so­ci­ated with tax dis­putes, which arise in large part be­cause in­ter­na­tion­al tax re­gimes re­lat­ing to the oil and gas sec­tor are hugely com­plex and in­creas­ingly so.
Geo­graphy: Com­plex en­vir­on­ments de­liv­er fin­an­cial re­wards but high­er risks
Risk pro­file, tech­nic­al and reg­u­lat­ory com­plex­ity and fin­an­cial con­straint nat­ur­ally all height­en the po­ten­tial for dis­putes. The CMS Oil and Gas Dis­putes Sur­vey sug­gests that two types of geo­graph­ic loc­a­tions bring with them an in­creased risk of dis­putes.First, ma­ture basins where: (i) ex­plor­a­tion and pro­duc­tion (E&P) is more tech­nic­ally chal­len­ging; (ii) pro­jects are fin­an­cially mar­gin­al com­pared to less ma­ture ‘mega fields’ with a long re­main­ing life; and (iii) there is a pro­lif­er­a­tion of me­di­um sized oil com­pan­ies with few­er re­la­tion­ships to main­tain else­where. These ma­ture basins are re­por­ted as hav­ing a great­er ca­pa­city to raise con­ten­tious clashes. United King­dom has the highest chance of en­ergy dis­putes arising There are likely many con­trib­ut­ing factors. The United King­dom Con­tin­ent­al Shelf (UKCS) is one of the three geo­graph­ic loc­a­tions that rep­res­ents the highest chance of a dis­pute arising, ac­cord­ing to The CMS Oil and Gas Dis­putes Sur­vey par­ti­cipants. A high pro­por­tion of re­spond­ents have op­er­a­tions in the UKCS re­gion and our data in­dic­ates that a sig­ni­fic­ant num­ber of these see it as high risk.As the mar­ket has ma­tured and with hy­dro­car­bon re­serves di­min­ish­ing in more ma­ture fields, op­er­at­ors have been forced in­to deep­er wa­ters where E&P is more tech­nic­ally com­plex and ex­pens­ive. If work­scopes re­quire to be ad­ap­ted be­cause pro­jects do not un­fold as an­ti­cip­ated on the ground, cost over­runs can quickly be­come a real con­cern and the chance of a dis­pute height­ens, both with con­tract­ors try­ing to work to tight budgets and co-ven­tur­ers re­quired to fund what may be cut­ting edge or mar­gin­al pro­jects.The pro­file of as­set own­er­ship in the UKCS has also changed over time. The UKCS re­gion is now in­hab­ited, in part, by smal­ler and me­di­um sized in­de­pend­ent play­ers look­ing to de­vel­op and max­im­ise re­cov­ery from smal­ler or ma­ture in­terests. These oil com­pan­ies are of­ten are fin­anced and struc­tured in a way that is very dif­fer­ent from the su­per-ma­jors that tra­di­tion­ally dom­in­ated the UKCS.
Key Find­ings of the CMS oil & gas dis­putes sur­vey
The three geo­graph­ic loc­a­tions iden­ti­fied as highest risk in terms of the pro­spects of a dis­pute arising were: Africa (28% of re­spond­ents, and 60% of those who op­er­ate in that re­gion); the United King­dom Con­tin­ent­al Shelf (UKCS) (37% of all re­spond­ents, and 50% of those who op­er­ate in the UKCS); and Lat­in Amer­ica (17% of total re­spond­ents and 40% of those who op­er­ate in the re­gion).
Op­er­a­tion­al prob­lems: activ­it­ies and re­la­tion­ships that can lead to dis­putes
It is not­able that in The CMS Oil and Gas Dis­putes Sur­vey, re­spond­ents singled out pro­jects and joint ven­tures as the as­pects of their activ­it­ies that bring the highest risk of dis­putes arising.As far as joint ven­ture dis­putes are con­cerned, in more be­nign times, when oil prices were con­sid­er­ably high­er, when the glob­al eco­nomy was grow­ing, and be­fore the oil and gas mar­ket be­came more frag­men­ted, in­dustry play­ers would have been per­haps more likely to avoid dis­putes with a joint ven­turer or re­solve is­sues quickly. Dis­putes with a joint ven­ture part­ner over a re­l­at­ively small mat­ter in a single jur­is­dic­tion might jeop­ard­ise a more luc­rat­ive glob­al re­la­tion­ship. The wider com­mer­cial im­per­at­ives would of­ten vastly out­weigh the gains from a leg­al battle.Duncan Hol­land, Head of Leg­al at Cairn En­ergy says: “In years gone by when the oil price was closer to $100, the banks were freer with their lend­ing, people were less con­strained, and dis­putes were more eas­ily re­solved. People would just meet in the middle.”Now that the mar­ket is more seg­men­ted and with both lar­ger com­pan­ies and in­de­pend­ent play­ers hav­ing tight­er fin­an­cial re­sources, the in­cent­ive to launch dis­putes seems to be great­er. Re­l­at­ively speak­ing oil com­pan­ies simply have more to lose. “Fif­teen years ago, there were very few joint ven­ture dis­putes,” com­ments Phil­lip Ash­ley, a CMS En­ergy Dis­putes Part­ner. He says that in cer­tain re­gions, the fre­quency of these kinds of dis­putes seems to have grown as as­sets are di­vested to smal­ler en­tit­ies and private equity-backed com­pan­ies - that have tight­er profit mar­gins. They also have less ex­tens­ive fund­ing ar­range­ments mean­ing that it may be less straight­for­ward for them to simply ‘meet in the middle’.Also, many of these smal­ler com­pan­ies do not have the kind of ex­tens­ive port­fo­lio that tra­di­tion­al oil and gas com­pan­ies would have had. As a res­ult, there may be less need to bal­ance re­la­tion­ships across mul­tiple joint ven­ture in­terests.Moreover, some joint ven­ture agree­ments were put in­to place dec­ades ago, when ex­plor­a­tion in a par­tic­u­lar area com­menced. That means that they in­cor­por­ate ap­proaches to ac­count­ing and gov­ernance which are no longer re­flect­ive of today’s mar­ket. In some cases the ex­ist­ing con­trac­tu­al ar­range­ments have not fully an­ti­cip­ated the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with con­tinu­ing to pro­duce from a ma­ture as­set, or those that arise as pro­duc­tion winds down and the oil field in­fra­struc­ture moves closer to de­com­mis­sion­ing. These his­tor­ic con­trac­tu­al ar­range­ments of­ten also do not ac­count for as­set own­er­ship by com­pan­ies that are struc­tured in a very dif­fer­ent way to the com­pan­ies that car­ried out the ori­gin­al ex­plor­a­tion work. Valer­ie Al­lan, a CMS En­ergy Dis­putes Part­ner, says that court re­cords show a marked in­crease in joint ven­ture cases.It is per­haps not sur­pris­ing that re­spond­ents iden­ti­fied pro­jects as the oth­er key area of risk as re­gards the po­ten­tial for dis­putes to arise. E&P pro­jects re­quire sig­ni­fic­ant fin­an­cial in­vest­ment, some­times (for ex­ample, in drilling ex­plor­a­tion wells) with no guar­an­tee of any re­turn. The work is of­ten be­ing un­der­taken in a dif­fi­cult phys­ic­al en­vir­on­ment and, des­pite ex­tens­ive plan­ning, in many cases (such as ex­plor­a­tion wells) there will be no cer­tainty as to the res­ult. Tech­nic­al com­plex­ity means there is al­ways the po­ten­tial for things to go wrong, and that com­plex­ity is in­creas­ing, for ex­ample, in ma­ture basins where new tech­no­logy is re­quired to de­liv­er bar­rels from deep­er, high­er pres­sure wells. Par­tic­u­larly where pro­jects are to bring new or ad­di­tion­al pro­duc­tion on­line, there will be real com­mer­cial pres­sures to achieve first hy­dro­car­bons as quickly as pos­sible in or­der to fa­cil­it­ate a re­turn on in­vest­ment. Ad­ded to that, the con­tinu­ing low oil price puts sig­ni­fic­ant pres­sure on mar­gins, driv­ing down­con­tract­or rates in an in­creas­ingly com­pet­it­ive mar­ket and leav­ing little con­tin­gency for un­ex­pec­ted events.
In­ter­view with Duncan Hol­land, Head of Leg­al, Cairn En­ergy
What are the key risks that the in­dustry is fa­cing? Where are you see­ing the most po­ten­tial for dis­putes? It is largely about the fin­an­cial situ­ation. Across the in­dustry, we are see­ing more dis­agree­ments even with parties in joint ven­tures, where there may not be a huge amount of money at stake, but com­pan­ies are seek­ing to pre­serve cash and not be tied in­to work com­mit­ments.  What op­er­a­tions are most likely to lead to dis­putes and how are you ap­proach­ing top­ic­al is­sues such as force ma­jeure?  We are in a dif­fer­ent world where some long-term con­tracts and work com­mit­ments of op­er­at­ors don’t make sense any­more and it’s not go­ing to change in the next 12 to 18 months, which is in­creas­ingly lead­ing to dis­putes.Force ma­jeure has taken up a bit of time in the last few months. If you phys­ic­ally can’t op­er­ate, then force ma­jeure is pretty clear, but as re­stric­tions are then re­laxed in some parts of the world while re­main­ing in oth­ers, it can be­come quite com­plex. Par­tic­u­larly in the oil and gas in­dustry where people and equip­ment can be mov­ing around the world. How do you see the im­pact of cli­mate change policies and pri­or­it­ies?  Gov­ern­ments, share­hold­ers and reg­u­lat­ory bod­ies in many coun­tries are look­ing at in­creased reg­u­la­tion in the im­me­di­ate and near-term fu­ture and that will be a key is­sue when look­ing at new pro­jects.  How is the typ­ic­al in-house leg­al team ad­dress­ing these risks in today’s cli­mate? And how might this com­pare to five or 10 years ago? I think there is a gen­er­al trend to more quickly use ex­tern­al coun­sel, be­cause there used to be more dis­putes re­solved am­ic­ably. The tem­per­at­ure has in­creased. We don’t ne­ces­sar­ily end up in court, but we have the po­ten­tial to do so. People can be emotive about dis­putes and it can be­come more tense. What you want is for ex­tern­al coun­sel to see through that and see what the un­der­ly­ing is­sue is. And so it’s about be­ing able to cut through all that noise in these dis­putes and see­ing where the strong points and the weak points are and ask­ing: ‘is this worth pur­su­ing’? We need law­yers to be com­mer­cial while un­der­stand­ing all the key mov­ing parts.  Where do you feel that the in­dustry can im­prove its man­age­ment of risk and dis­putes?  People can keep bet­ter re­cords. A lot of prob­lems arise out of meet­ings where people dis­agreed about cer­tain things and the two parties have re­cords that are wildly dif­fer­ent. Also, clear­er draft­ing at the out­set. Of­ten you have com­plic­ated agree­ments and people are keen to get them con­cluded and signed, even though there is of­ten vague lan­guage try­ing to deal with highly com­plex situ­ations. You need to have these dis­cus­sions early to try and deal with some of the prob­lems be­fore they arise. It’s easi­er to reach agree­ment on a lot of these is­sues when things are am­ic­able.
Risk mit­ig­a­tion: lim­it­ing the fal­lout
Even if the oil and gas in­dustry faces more risk and is prone to more ten­sions, clashes and dis­agree­ments, it does have the means of tack­ling these con­cerns.Over 91% of The CMS Oil and Gas Dis­putes Sur­vey re­spond­ents in­dic­ated that there is room for im­prove­ment in man­aging dis­pute-re­lated risks. Just as the in­dustry is evolving and shift­ing ac­cord­ing to eco­nom­ic, geo­pol­it­ic­al and so­cial changes, so too are the means of ad­dress­ing risks and min­im­ising the chances of dis­agree­ments.
In­ter­view with Sandra Red­ding, Gen­er­al Coun­sel, Sead­rill
Where are you see­ing the most po­ten­tial for dis­putes?  Whenev­er we see mac­roe­co­nom­ic fin­an­cial chal­lenges in the in­dustry, we see chan­ging pri­or­it­ies for all play­ers, and that leads to a de­sire to find flex­ib­il­ity in ex­ist­ing com­mit­ments, to move in dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tions. Nat­ur­ally that can see an in­crease in dis­putes com­ing through the sup­ply chain, and for long term sup­ply re­la­tion­ships. We see chal­lenges com­ing through an in­creas­ing fo­cus on loc­al con­tent, en­vir­on­ment­al and is­sues arising from in­ter­na­tion­al la­bour mo­bil­ity due to changes in la­bour laws glob­ally. Where do you see the biggest po­ten­tial for dis­putes geo­graph­ic­ally?  We are see­ing op­er­a­tion­al in­ter­rup­tion evenly dis­trib­uted across the globe as we move through the pan­dem­ic. That has been a great lev­el­ler this past year in terms of com­mer­cial dis­putes. Cer­tain so­cial and polit­ic­al pres­sures have over the past sev­er­al years put pres­sure on loc­al con­tent policies in al­most every con­tin­ent. And we’re see­ing ten­sions com­ing through the matur­ing of em­ploy­ment law in cer­tain la­bour mar­kets. As Gen­er­al Coun­sel, where have you felt the most pres­sure dur­ing the COV­ID crisis?  Ini­tially it was the re­lent­less pace of it all, need­ing to solve very new chal­lenges sim­ul­tan­eously, in terms of work­ing loc­a­tions, mov­ing people around in­ter­na­tion­ally, con­tract im­plic­a­tions. As the pan­dem­ic draws out, we are see­ing more fun­da­ment­al im­pacts; per­man­ently changed work­ing meth­ods, loc­a­tions and struc­tures. Which brings op­por­tun­it­ies to re­spond more cre­at­ively in the longer term to the lower de­mand that we are see­ing across the in­dustry through 2021, and po­ten­tially bey­ond. Which activ­it­ies are most likely to lead to dis­putes right now?  Op­er­a­tion­al delay due to COV­ID and force ma­jeure is a really hot is­sue. Move­ment of goods and people across bor­ders and to off­shore loc­a­tions con­tin­ues to be very chal­len­ging.  How are in-house teams typ­ic­ally start­ing to use tech­no­logy?  The use of AI and auto­ma­tion in our sup­ply chain and com­mer­cial agree­ments has huge po­ten­tial to help us man­age risk through stand­ard­isa­tion and great­er align­ment between suites of pro­ject agree­ments across our en­ter­prise. It is the key to cost and time ef­fi­ciency in con­tract­ing. It’s much easi­er for us to run stats on our agree­ments to in­crease con­sist­ency of con­tent, and be able to mon­it­or key met­rics. As an off­shore drilling com­pany, we are hugely ad­ept at de­vel­op­ing and us­ing in­nov­at­ive tech­no­logy. That shouldn’t stop when it comes to our on­shore busi­ness. What in­volve­ment do you typ­ic­ally seek from ex­tern­al coun­sel and in what cir­cum­stances would you look to bring them in?  No mat­ter the cal­ibre of a strong in-house team like Sead­rill’s, in­ter­na­tion­al busi­nesses like ours will al­ways look for qual­ity spe­cial­ist jur­is­dic­tion­al know­ledge. Hav­ing the in­ter­na­tion­al um­brella of ex­tern­al firms, help­ing us ac­cess and man­age loc­al con­tent in emer­ging jur­is­dic­tions and chal­len­ging jur­is­dic­tions, is hugely valu­able. In areas like com­plex dis­pute man­age­ment, law firms are be­com­ing real spe­cial­ists in their abil­ity to handle and pro­cess the volumes of data in­volved and of­fer a more joined-up ser­vice to get all the way through to res­ol­u­tion.
Rid­ing out the storm
Al­though an­oth­er su­per-cycle can nev­er be dis­coun­ted in the oil in­dustry, mar­ket ana­lysts cur­rently con­sider it un­likely that the oil and gas in­dustry will ever ex­per­i­ence the con­di­tions that im­me­di­ately pre­ceded the 2008 fin­an­cial crisis.In that peri­od, busi­nesses were able to gen­er­ate sig­ni­fic­ant profits thanks to skyrock­et­ing oil prices and sig­ni­fic­ant glob­al de­mand. As the green eco­nomy gains fur­ther trac­tion, buoyed by polit­ic­al and so­ci­et­al sup­port, in­ev­it­ably oil and gas play­ers will face chal­lenges. It will not al­ways be easy to pre­serve cor­di­al re­la­tion­ships with joint ven­ture part­ners, con­tract­ors, sup­ply chains and host states.Where ten­sions build, it will be es­sen­tial to have the right meth­ods in place to mol­li­fy fric­tion and un­ease.
Oil and Gas Dis­putes Sur­vey: Man­aging dis­putes risk – the in-house per­spect­ive
The CMS Oil and Gas Dis­putes Sur­vey ex­amined the key drivers of dis­putes and dis­pute man­age­ment in the oil and gas in­dustry, and how sec­tor par­ti­cipants are mov­ing to­wards new ap­proaches to min­im­ise con­flicts and dis­putes. Based on more than 50 re­sponses from seni­or leg­al man­agers and seni­or in-house coun­sel in the oil and gas in­dustry across Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pa­cific, Africa and Lat­in Amer­ica, it provides in­ter­est­ing in­sights in­to how dis­putes arise and are man­aged around the globe.Even be­fore the on­set of the COV­ID-19 pan­dem­ic, the oil and gas in­dustry was fa­cing con­sid­er­able chal­lenges, not least a pro­longed peri­od of re­l­at­ively low oil prices and a glob­al fo­cus on lower­ing car­bon emis­sions and “green” en­ergy.Com­pared with the heights of 2008, pri­or to the glob­al fin­an­cial crisis, when in­ter­na­tion­al oil prices peaked at over US$140 a bar­rel, the US$55 bar­rel price for Brent Crude in late Janu­ary 2021 still looked re­l­at­ively low, des­pite the re­cent par­tial re­cov­ery. Those weak prices con­tin­ue to place con­sid­er­able pres­sures on in­dustry play­ers that are now of­ten op­er­at­ing on his­tor­ic­ally low mar­gins of prof­it­ab­il­ity.It was not al­ways this way. As ver­tic­ally in­teg­rated gi­ants, oil and gas ma­jors were tra­di­tion­ally con­sidered well able to ab­sorb down­sides with­in a broad port­fo­lio of rev­en­ues and part­ner­ships, but today many in­dustry play­ers no longer have that lux­ury. A num­ber of geo­graph­ic mar­kets that were pre­vi­ously dom­in­ated by a few large up­stream oil com­pan­ies have transitioned through di­vest­ments to own­er­ship by a lar­ger group of smal­ler in­de­pend­ent play­ers with more fo­cused port­fo­li­os and a range of fin­an­cial mod­els. With more op­er­at­ors and par­ti­cipants in many oil and gas geo­graph­ic mar­kets, it seems likely that the op­por­tun­it­ies for dis­putes are in­creas­ing. CMS Oil and Gas Dis­putes Sur­vey in­dic­ates that more could be done to pre­vent and mit­ig­ate against ex­pens­ive time-con­sum­ing dis­putes.