Third World

This Tale dates from the early 1970s. I heard it from a very senior in-house lawyer at one of the American majors.

Gas had been discovered in UK waters and oil was thought to be possible. A proposal to apply to the UK Government for acreage in the North Sea was put to the company’s board of directors.

My friend gave the board an overview of the petroleum regime in the UK, including the fiscal terms.

The CEO said “Let me get this straight. The UK Government can unilaterally and at any time change the tax rate?” My friend confirmed that was correct.

“It just won’t fly,” the CEO said, “I don’t trust the Brits any more than I trust any other third world government.”

The decision had to be reversed when substantial oil fields were discovered in UK waters in the mid 1970s. The company applied for acreage despite the risk that the British Government could raise taxes.

But the comment speaks volumes about the attitude of the US majors to the UK, and to the rest of the third world.

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.