We previously reported that, in February 2009, the Commission received a request from the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij B.V. pursuant to Article 30(5) of EU Directive 2004/17/EC seeking an exemption from the EU procurement rules for activities related to the exploration for, or extraction of, oil and gas in the Netherlands.

The Commission has now granted the declaration requested. It concluded that access to the Dutch market for oil and gas exploration and production was not restricted since the Netherlands has implemented the Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive, which requires competitive bidding for oil and gas licences.

So what does this mean in practice?

Basically, Dutch oil and gas companies will no longer have to comply with the procurement rules set out in the Utilities Directive when tendering for goods, works and services (albeit a relaxed regime has applied in the oil and gas sector for a number of years). Of course, this decision will not alter any contractual requirement imposed on those companies to continue to use competitive tendering where required to do so under the terms of any JOA in place or indeed where competitive market-testing is deemed appropriate for good business practice. Nevertheless, this could result in potentially considerable cost and time savings for these companies in the future.