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What are the primary laws and regulations governing the oil and gas industry in your jurisdiction?
Belgium is a federal state. Energy competences are divided between the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels-Capital regions and the federal state.
With regard to the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas, the primary laws are the Flemish Regional Act of May 8 2009 on deep subsoil and the Walloon Regional Act of July 4 2002 on quarries. However, the scope of these regional acts is not limited to oil and gas, and the lack of indigenous oil or gas production means that their application in that regard remains limited.
The (Federal) Gas Act of April 12 1965 is the primary legislation for all activities relating to the transportation of gaseous products through pipelines. The following laws are also relevant:
- the Royal Decree of April 3 2003 on invoicing electricity and gas;
- the Royal Decree of May 14 2002 on transportation licences for gaseous and other products by way of pipelines; and
- the Royal Decree of December 23 2010 on the code of conduct concerning access to the natural gas transportation network, storage capacity for natural gas and liquefied natural gas installations.
Several EU instruments concern the gas industry, such as:
- the EU Gas Directive (2009/73/EC) on the common rules for the internal market in natural gas;
- EU Regulation 715/2009 on conditions for access to the natural gas transmission networks;
- EU Regulation 994/2010 on measures to safeguard the security of gas supply; and
- the EU Regulation on Energy Market Integrity and Transparency (1227/2011) on wholesale energy market integrity and transparency.
The Programme Contract of October 1 2006 on the maximum sales price scheme for oil products is the most important legal instrument for the oil industry. Further, EU Directive 2009/119/EC obliging EU member states to maintain minimum stocks of crude oil and petroleum products was implemented in the Act of January 26 2006 on the storage of strategic oil reserves.
Offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation are subject to the Act of June 13 1969 on the exploration and exploitation of non-living resources in territorial waters and on the continental shelf.
What government bodies are charged with regulating the oil and gas industry and what are the extent of their powers?
Belgium has four energy regulators: one at federal level and three at regional level. The federal regulator, the Commission for Electricity and Gas Regulation (CREG), has a general advisory role as regards the organisation and operation of the gas market and a supervisory role regarding the application of relevant laws and regulations. CREG’s powers include:
- the permanent monitoring of the gas market, in terms of both market functioning and prices; and
- ensuring the transmission system operator’s compliance with the relevant laws and regulations.
Regional regulators (the Flemish Regulator for the Electricity and Gas Market (VREG), the Walloon Commission for Energy (CWaPE) and Brussels Gas Electricity (BRUGEL)) have powers to regulate and supervise the gas market in their respective regions, which includes the power to ensure compliance with technical regulations and approve the tariff proposals of gas distribution system operators.
As an EU and an International Energy Agency member state, Belgium has a duty under the Agreement on an International Energy Programme of November 18 1974 to hold one-quarter of its annual net imports of oil products as strategic stocks. Belgium’s strategic reserves are held by the public law company APETRA, which is fully owned by the federal state.
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