The Oil and Gas Authority (Offshore Petroleum) (Disclosure of Protected Material after Specified Period) Regulations 2018 (the “Regulations”) were laid before Parliament on 13 June 2018 and will come into force in July 2018.

The Oil and Gas Authority (“OGA”) has powers under the Energy Act 2016 (the “Act”) to obtain petroleum related information and samples from “relevant persons” being broadly operators, licensees, owners of infrastructure and those planning new infrastructure. Separate regulations are already in force specifying what information and samples must be retained by relevant persons and for how long. These are the Oil and Gas Authority (Offshore Petroleum) (Retention of Information and Samples) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/514) and our Law Now on those regulations can be found here.

The new Regulations set out the time at or after which, once in its possession, OGA may publish or otherwise make this material available by it or a subsequent holder to the industry and wider public.

MER UK

OGA must act in accordance with the principal objective of MER UK. The Act provides OGA with the functions and powers required in order to give effect to this principal objective, including extensive powers to obtain petroleum related information and samples. Timely and transparent access to petroleum related information and samples was one of the recommendations in the 2014 Wood Review in order to achieve MER UK.

OGA considers that by improving the process in relation to the retention and disclosure of information that a potential £140 billion additional revenue could be made from oil and gas activity, as access to information will encourage activity and collaboration.

Protected material and the time at or after which the OGA may publish or otherwise make this material available

The Act prohibits the OGA from disclosing “protected information”, that is, petroleum information and samples which it obtains under its powers in Part 2 of the Act (this includes information and samples received under its powers to require information as well as information received in the exercise of its dispute resolution and sanctions powers and its powers to attend meetings). However, there are a series of exceptions to that general duty of confidentiality.

The new Regulations deal with one of those exceptions, under section 66 of the Act which allows information and samples obtained by OGA under Chapter 3 Part 2 of the Act to be disclosed after a specified period.

The Regulations implement this exception and specify the time at or after which OGA can publish certain protected material or make it publicly available.

Under the Act, certain factors must be taken into account in determining the period of time protected material must be kept confidential before it may be published. These include:

  • Whether the specified time will allow the owners of the protected material to achieve the main purpose for which it was originally created or acquired;
  • The potential benefits to the petroleum industry of the publication being made at a particular time;
  • The potential risk that the specified time may discourage persons from acquiring or creating petroleum-related information or petroleum-related samples; and
  • Any other factors the Secretary of State considers relevant.

The times at or after which the OGA may publish or make protected material available is set out within the relevant provisions of the Regulations, and are summarised below. Different periods apply to different categories of information.

What information is subject to the Regulations?

The Regulations apply to the following protected material:

  1. Information relating to geological surveys conducted as part of the exploration under an offshore licence
  2. Information relating to geological surveys seeking to ascertain the prospects within the area of a production licence or for commercial purposes i.e. selling the results to third parties
  3. Information in relation to the location, construction and operation of wells and any petroleum encountered, other than in production
  4. Consolidated information about petroleum production as well as non-consolidated information on the quantities and chemicals composition of the petroleum being produced from individual wells
  5. Computerised models which bring together various sources of information to model the subsurface or reservoir in order to assess prospects and inform operations over the production process
  6. The dates production starts, permanently ceases and description of compounds in the petroleum which may affect its production or transportation
  7. Geotechnical engineering or analysis information required to erect installations or other structures needed for production which is contained in a development plan
  8. Petroleum samples, other fluids or strata acquired or created when drilling or producing from a well
  9. Information about the circumstances of a pipeline for the construction or use of which OGA has granted authorisation, the date of actual or expected cessation of use of such a pipeline, the date of its removal and information on any deposits of material on the seabed during the construction or use of the pipeline
  10. Information about the circumstances of installations and infrastructure, other than pipelines, used in production as well as information on the location, construction and operation of such installations or infrastructures no longer used for production

For material in the first three categories above (information relating to geological surveys) the Regulations will not apply if this was acquired or created by or on behalf of an offshore licensee before 2018.

For material falling into the other categories the Regulations will apply where the trigger event which starts time running under the Regulations occurs after the commencement of these Regulations. In some cases, the trigger event is the acquisition or creation of the information which will mean that information or samples acquired or created before the commencement of the Regulations will not be subject to them. In other cases, the trigger event is the obtaining of the information by OGA so that if OGA obtains the information or samples after the coming into force of the Regulations then that material will be caught by the Regulations, even if the information or samples were created earlier.

Where the Regulations permit the publication of protected material after the termination of an offshore licence and the termination relates to part only of the licence area, the Regulations apply only to the protected material relating to the determined part unless the termination ends the licence entirely.

A summary table of the protected materials and the period after which each type may be disclosed can be found below.

The draft Regulations can be found here.

Summary Table

Regulation

Information created or acquired by or on behalf of:

Protected material

Period after which it may be disclosed

5

An offshore licensee

Summary information relating to geological offshore surveys

After the date on which the geological survey finishes

6

The holder of a production licence

Information relating to geological surveys

After the earlier of the period of five years beginning with the date on which processing relating to the survey is complete or the date of the determination of the production licence in respect of the area to which the geological survey relates

This regulation does not apply to information to which any of regulations 5, 8 or 9 apply.

7

A person other than the holder of a production licence

Information relating to geological surveys

Where the information is processed information, after the period of ten years beginning with the date on which processing relating to the survey is complete or where the information is original information, after the period of fifteen years beginning with the date on which processing relating to the survey is complete

This regulation does not apply to information to which any of regulations 5, 8 or 9 apply.

8

An offshore licensee

Summary well information

After the date on which the information is obtained by OGA

9

An offshore licensee

Other well information

After the earlier of the period of two years beginning with the date on which the information is obtained by OGA or the date of the determination of the relevant licence.

This regulation does not apply to information to which regulation 8 applies.

10

None stated

Consolidated production information

After the earlier of the period of two years beginning with the date on which the information is obtained by OGA or the date of the determination of the relevant licence.

11

None stated

Other production information

After the earlier of the date production permanently ceases from the petroleum field to which the information relates or the date of determination of the relevant licence

12

An offshore licensee

Information relating to computerised models

After the date of the determination of the relevant licence

13

An offshore licensee

Summary information relating to production under an offshore licence

After the date on which the information is obtained by OGA

14

None stated

Geotechnical information in a development plan

After the earlier of the period of five year beginning with the date on which petroleum is first produced from the petroleum field or the date of the determination of the relevant licence.

This regulation does not apply to information to which any of regulations 5 to 13 apply.

15

An offshore licensee

Other information relating to an offshore licence

After the date of the determination of the relevant licence

This regulation does not apply to information to which any of regulations 5 to 14 apply.

16

None stated

Samples

After the earlier of two years beginning with the date on which the sample is obtained by the OGA or the date of the determination of the relevant licence.

17

None stated

General information relating to pipelines

After the date on which the OGA grants the pipeline works authorisation

18

None stated

Information relating to cessation of use and removal of pipelines

After the date on which the information is obtained by OGA

19

None stated

Pipeline deposit information

After the date on which OGA grants consent to the pipeline deposit proposal

20

None stated

Summary information relating to relevant offshore installations and relevant upstream petroleum infrastructure

After the date on which the information is published by OGA

21

None stated

Other information relating to relevant offshore installations and relevant upstream petroleum infrastructure

After the date on which the installation or infrastructure was used to get petroleum under an offshore licence and production has permanently ceased from every petroleum field which used the installation or infrastructure to get petroleum under an offshore licence.

This regulation does not apply to information to which regulation 20 applies.