Finding Fish

In 1995 I negotiated the contracts for a client to farm in to an exploration venture offshore Namibia, an unproven oil province.

In essence the farmin involved the client paying the cost of an exploration well in return for a half share in the venture.

The well was delayed when the operator unaccountably dropped the blowout preventer while it was being craned from a supply boat onto the drilling rig. 

To obtain a replacement blowout preventer from South Africa would take six weeks and cost $6 million, so it was decided to try to recover the lost one. A camera was lowered to survey the seabed and locate the blowout preventer.

When the film arrived we could see nothing but huge shoals of fish attracted to the camera’s lights. Subsequent investigations showed that the BOP had sunk deep into the ooze on the seabed, and could not be recovered.

As a result the well was delayed and over budget, and it was also dry. We had the consolation of a cheery note from Namcor, the state oil company of Namibia, thanking us for the discovery of substantial and previously unknown fish stocks.

There is now a thriving fishing industry in Namibian waters. Oil has only recently been discovered there.

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.