View Full Version : Who owns undersea oil fields?
04-09-2008, 05:32 PM
Is there some sort of international governing body? Let say a US company finds a field and starts mining it, are other companies allowed to setup shop next door and mine the same field?
04-09-2008, 05:53 PM
Insofar as international law is concerned, the nation which has claim to the sea bed in which the oil field is located. (Almost all offshore oil fields are located within lands claimed as territorial sea bed by a neighboring nation, as in, off the Gulf coast of the U.S. or of Mexico, on the North Slope of Alaska or Canada, off the coast of Venezuela, Qatar, Iran, or whoever. Look at a map of the North Sea for the national claims to the oil field under it.)
Then, of course, it goes by the national law of the nation owning that sea bed -- a nationalized oil exploration and production company, ExxonMobil, Aramco, etc., as the nation's law provides.
04-09-2008, 06:03 PM
Interesting, I didn't realise that they were all in terrororial waters.
This begs the question whether there is oil in the international waters? If not why not? If there is,it could become an interesting political challenge if the technology catches up to allow deep see drilling in international waters.
04-09-2008, 06:17 PM
This begs the question whether there is oil in the international waters? If not why not? If there is,it could become an interesting political challenge if the technology catches up to allow deep see drilling in international waters.It already is. The Arctic ice cap is receding and exposing the Arctic Ocean to potential offshore drilling. It's known there are extensive untapped oilfields under these waters. As a result there is currently an active international debate going on over who owns these territories based on different interpretations of how far out a country's national waters extend.
04-10-2008, 07:17 AM
Resources which are under the seabed in international waters, which do not belong to the territorial waters of any nation, are governed by the International Seabed Authority (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Seabed_Authority), established by the 1982 U.N: Convention on the Law of the Sea. It does not exploit these resources itself, but rather issues licenses toprivate contractors.
04-10-2008, 07:24 AM
It already is. The Arctic ice cap is receding and exposing the Arctic Ocean to potential offshore drilling. It's known there are extensive untapped oilfields under these waters. As a result there is currently an active international debate going on over who owns these territories based on different interpretations of how far out a country's national waters extend.
I would dispute that it is known that there is extensive oil under the Arctic polar ice cap. It is possible the petroleum systems found in northern Siberia and on land in the Canadian Arctic extend under the sea but as there have been no holes drilled or seismic run it would be extremely premature to use the word known. Clearly it is promising exploration territory, hence all the hoopla and international debate over territorial claims.
Given our current understanding of petroleum generation systems, oil or gas is unlikely to be found in the abyssal plains, hence it is on the continental shelf or slope which are invariably found inside someones territorial waters.
04-10-2008, 07:27 AM
I'd like to add that an especially controversial resource which can be found on the seabed is not oil, but manganese nodules (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manganese_nodule). There was some deal about them in the past, and there was a short rush on them in th 1970s. Since then, the issue has calmed down, mostly because of technical problems in collecting the nodules, but improved technology might make exploitation of these resources viable.
04-10-2008, 07:35 AM
Thanks guys, fascinating stuff.
This is interesting: from WP:
"The exact nature of the ISA's mission and authority has been questioned by opponents of the Law of the Sea Treaty who are generally skeptical of multilateral engagement by the United States. The United States is the only major maritime power that has not ratified the Convention, with one of the main anti-ratification arguments being a charge that the ISA is flawed or unnecessary. In its original form, the Convention included certain provisions that some found objectionable, such as::"
04-10-2008, 07:43 AM
Wired just had an article on how they figure out the international boundaries:
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