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Energy Act 2008

Summary and Background

395.The Government considers that access to infrastructure on fair and reasonable terms is crucial to maximising the economic recovery of the UK's oil and, particularly, gas. This is because many fields on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) and in the territorial sea do not contain sufficient reserves to justify their own infrastructure, but are economic as satellite developments utilising existing infrastructure.

396.There is a voluntary “Infrastructure Code of Practice” (The Code of Practice on Access to Upstream Oil and Gas Infrastructure on the UK Continental Shelf) which sets out principles and procedures to guide all those involved in negotiating third-party access to oil and gas infrastructure on the UK Continental Shelf. There is existing legislation in the Acts listed below under which, if a third party is unable to agree satisfactory terms of access with the owner of most upstream infrastructure, the third party seeking such access can – and under the terms of the Infrastructure Code of Practice is obliged to - make an application to the Secretary of State to decide whether access should be granted and, if so, on what terms:

  • The Pipe-lines Act 1962 (c.58)

  • The Gas Act 1995 (c.45)

  • The Petroleum Act 1998 (c.17)

397.In the existing regulatory framework there are gaps in the coverage of the Secretary of State’s powers to determine third party access that mean some parts of the upstream petroleum infrastructure are not covered. “Upstream infrastructure” refers to infrastructure relating to the production of oil and gas including transportation and processing required to get it into a saleable state. Downstream infrastructure refers to facilities such as oil refineries and the distribution and storage network required to get oil products and gas to consumers. Gaps in the legislation exist, for example, in relation to access to oil processing facilities, certain gas processing facilities and services associated with pipelines. This means that a party seeking access to all links in the chain of the infrastructure would currently be able to ask the Secretary of State to determine a dispute over only certain parts of it. The legislation can only be wholly effective as a backstop if it covers the entire range of upstream infrastructure. If it did so, the Secretary of State would be able to be a more effective arbiter in situations where interested parties cannot reach commercial agreement.

398.The Act extends the existing regime so that, if he is requested to intervene in the case of disputes over third party access, the Secretary of State will have the power to determine third party access rights to all upstream petroleum infrastructure.

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