Offshore oil and gas development dependent on legal protection of UNCLOS
Offshore operations are capital-intensive, requiring significant financing and insurance. Oil and natural gas companies do not want to undertake these massive expenditures if their lease sites may be subject to territorial dispute. They operate transnationally, and need to know that the title to the petroleum resources will be respected worldwide and not just in the United States.
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More rapid development of the oil and gas resources of the United States continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The United States oil and gas industry is poised in its technology to begin development of the huge continental shelf of the United States beyond 200 miles (approximately 15% of our total shelf). But uncertainties resulting from U.S. non-adherence to the Convention will delay the substantial investment necessary for development in these areas. Moreover, U.S. non-adherence is causing the United States to lag behind other nations, including Russia, in delimiting our continental shelf. Delimitation of the shelf is an urgent oceans interest of the United States;13
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Given the price of gasoline today, surely there is broad agreement that the United States needs to get on with the task of developing the oil and gas of our continental margins beyond 200 miles. Without adherence to the Convention that is unlikely to happen for years to come. The large investments that must be made to drill in deep water simply will not be made without legal certainty and security of tenure. Further, the United States has a crucial interest in protecting navigational freedom for the oil and gas brought to the United States that is so crucial for our economy. About 44 % of U.S. maritime commerce concerns petroleum and its products. To put this in further perspective, offshore oil and gas is now the world=s largest marine industry, with oil production alone in the range of $300 billion per year. For these and other reasons of relevance to our security interest in oil and gas, and the interests of our oil and gas industry, Mr. Paul L. Kelly, speaking on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, and the National Ocean Industries Association, and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that "the U.S. oil and natural gas industry supports Senate ratification of the Convention at the earliest date possible;" ""
In conclusion, from an energy perspective we see potential future pressures building in terms of both marine boundary and continental shelf delineations and in marine transportation. We believe the LOS Convention offers the U.S. the chance to exercise needed leadership in addressing these pressures and protecting the many vital U.S. ocean interests. Notwithstanding the United States' view of customary international law, the U.S. petroleum industry is concerned that failure by the United States to become a party to the Convention could adversely affect U.S. companies' operations offshore other countries. In November 1998, the U.S. lost its provisional right of participation in the International Seabed Authority by not being a party to the Convention. At present there is no U.S. participation, even as an observer, in the Continental Shelf Commission--the body that decides claims of OCS areas beyond 200 miles--during its important developmental phase. The U.S. lost an opportunity to elect a U.S. commissioner in 2002, and we will not have another opportunity to elect a Commissioner until 2007.
The United States should also be in a position to exercise leadership and influence on how the International Seabed Authority will implement its role in being the conduit for revenue sharing from broad margin States such as the U.S., yet the U.S. cannot secure membership on key subsidiary bodies of the Seabed Authority until it accedes to the Convention. Clearly United States views would undoubtedly carry much greater weight as a party to the Convention than they do as an outsider. With 143 countries and the European Union having ratified the Convention, the Convention will be implemented with or without our participation and will be sure to affect our interests.
It is for these reasons that the U.S. oil and natural gas industry supports Senate ratification of the Convention at the earliest date possible.
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In the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 Congress mandated the National Research Council to undertake a review of the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program at the Department of Energy to provide advice to ensure that significant contributions are made towards understanding methane hydrates as a source of energy and as a potential contributor to climate change. That review is now underway. The U.S. Navy has also done work on gas hydrates, as has the U.S. scientific community, including universities such as Louisiana State University and Texas A&M. Significant research is also being conducted by scientific institutions in Japan. The United States needs to have a seat at the table of the Continental Shelf Commission in order to influence development of any international rules or guidelines that could affect gas hydrate resources beyond our EEZ.
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In conclusion, from an energy perspective we see potential future pressures building in terms of both marine boundary and continental shelf delineations and in marine transportation. We believe the LOS Convention offers the U.S. the chance to exercise needed leadership in addressing these pressures and protecting the many vital U.S. ocean interests. Notwithstanding the United States’ view of customary international law, the U.S. petroleum industry is concerned that failure by the United States to become a party to the Convention could adversely affect U.S. companies’ operations offshore other countries. In November 1998, the U.S. lost its provisional right of participation in the International Seabed Authority by not being a party to the Convention. At present there is no U.S. participation, even as an observer, in the Continental Shelf Commission— the body that decides claims of OCS areas beyond 200 miles— during its important developmental phase. The U.S. lost an opportunity to elect a U.S. commissioner in 2002, and we will not have another opportunity to elect a Commissioner until 2007.
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With respect to our oil and gas and deep seabed mining industries, however, there are especially compelling reasons why the United States needs to promptly adhere to the Convention. Our oil and gas industry is simply unlikely to move forward in development of the continental margin of the United States in areas beyond 200 nautical miles until United States adherence solidifies the legal regime for them in such areas. And our deep seabed mining industry is now moribund, and will remain so, absent United States adherence to the Convention. The United States led the world toward development of the technology for the recovery of deep seabed minerals. Our industry collectively expended more than $200 million to identify and obtain international recognition for five prime mine sites. At present three of those sites lie abandoned and the other two are on hold with zero chance of activity absent United States adherence. The Congress should clearly understand that accepting the arguments of the critics and opposing moving forward with the Convention is to permanently put the innovative United States deep seabed mining industry out of business, and to accept a reality that only the firms of other nations will be able to mine the deep seabed.
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The Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony by Paul Kelly, on behalf of petroleum and other industrial associations, advocating Treaty accession as a means of facilitating energy development on the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. While the Convention allows for continental shelf claims to 350 miles and in some cases even beyond this, as a non–state party, the United States has no treaty-based means of making such a claim. Kelly painted a picture of an energy industry ready, willing, and able to move oil and gas extraction production into deepwater areas beyond 200 nautical miles of the United States. Citing technology that now allows for oil and gas development in water depths approaching two kilometers, Kelly pointed out that “U.S. companies are interested in setting international precedents by being the first to operate in areas beyond 200 miles and to continue demonstrating environmentally sound drilling and production technologies.” " While Kelly touted the ambitious and environmentally sound plans of industry, the environmental community had its own advocate citing the myriad reasons for Treaty accession. "
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Offshore oil and natural gas exploration along the extended continental shelf – an area beyond the 200-nautical-mile EEZ – is expected to increase U.S. reserves over the next decade. However, the United States cannot secure internationally recognized sovereign rights to those resources unless it ratifies LOSC. While the United States enjoys national jurisdiction over living and non-living resources above and below the seabed out to 200 nautical miles, claims to resources beyond the EEZ must be formally made to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the international body established by LOSC for parties to adjudicate claims to the extended continental shelf. Without the United States ratifying LOSC, U.S. companies operating beyond the EEZ would be considered on the high seas and beyond the formal legal protection of the United States. As a result, offshore drilling companies have increasingly expressed their concern about the lack of legal protections afforded to U.S. companies and have indicated a reluctance to assume significant risk in operating in areas beyond U.S. jurisdiction. In short, U.S. failure to ratify LOSC could have a chilling effect on commercial resource exploration and exploitation on the extended continental shelf.
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Offshore operations are capital-intensive, requiring significant financing and insurance. Oil and natural gas companies do not want to undertake these massive expenditures if their lease sites may be subject to territorial dispute. They operate transnationally, and need to know that the title to the petroleum resources will be respected worldwide and not just in the United States. Availability of clear legal title is crucial to realizing the potential of U.S. offshore areas both now and in the future, as drilling technology continues to advance and make new projects feasible. As ExxonMobil emphasized in its recent letter to this Committee, before it undertakes the immense investments required to explore and develop resources beyond 200 miles, “legal certainty in the property rights being explored and developed is essential.”
Until we ratify the treaty, no U.S. companies will operate on the extended continental shelf. Aside from a small pocket of territory in the western Gulf of Mexico where we have bilaterally negotiated a boundary with Mexico, companies cannot be granted the certainty that leases of these regions would not be challenged in international courts.
Without becoming party to the treaty and gaining a seat at the negotiating table where decisions are made about how to partition out extended-shelf claims, we will be unable to assure industries that the international community will recognize a U.S. lease. Businesses, even those with extremely deep pockets such as Big Oil and Lockheed Martin, have been very clear: If we don’t ratify, they won’t operate. Companies want to create those jobs, generate revenue, and increase domestic production. But no certainty means no investment. No treaty means no security, no jobs, no dollars, no resources. It’s that simple.
The author discusses the opportunities the offshore oil and gas industry has to break boundaries provided by "Exclusive Economic Zones" off the coasts of all our nations and take exploration beyond the traditional 200-mile limit. The means by which this can and will be accomplished is the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOS).
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