The legal implications of the term ‘good oilfield practice’ in protecting the environment and society from onshore upstream oil and gas operations
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
The wide-ranging detrimental impacts of onshore upstream petroleum operations on vulnerable local communities and ecosystems, especially within developing and underdeveloped countries, create a need to put more pressure and restrictions on multinational oil companies (MNOCs) to comply with international standards. The alleged inadequacy of the social and environmental regulatory systems of these countries and the immaturity of international means of monitoring the performance of MNOCs and prosecuting them for environmental and human rights violations, has temporarily given preference and priority to petroleum contracts to carry out the tasks of regulating and imposing socio-environmental standards on oil companies. The key benchmark set by oil and gas production contracts in developing oil-producing countries, such as Iraq, has appeared to be the principle of ‘good oilfield practice’ (GOP). This has motivated the researcher to seek better insight into the implications, scope, and content of this term and to examine the extent to which it reflects modern socio-environmental expectations. This will involve a critical analysis of the current interpretations of GOP, its main inadequacies, and the potential means and theories that can contribute to the development of this notion to embed fundamental environmental, social, and human rights responsibilities. The ultimate goal is to present an innovative interpretation of the term GOP that can be employed by stakeholders and judiciaries in evaluating the social and environmental performance of MNOCs and holding them accountable. Throughout the process of redefining GOP, some evolving theories, such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG); environmental human rights; climate, environmental and energy justice; human rights due diligence; and participatory procedural obligations will be used to present a more harmonised and comprehensive understanding of the term GOP, which can contribute to the mitigation of the negative socio-environmental impacts of extractive activities. The main legal means that will be harnessed in bestowing social and human rights characteristics upon the term GOP will be the principal UN documents, international treaties, and organisational guidelines that have developed the principle of ‘environmental human rights’ and its associated procedural and participatory obligations and imparted them to the private sector arena.