Who’s Who Legal brings together Paulo Valois Pires of L O Baptista, Steven Otillar of Akin Gump and Brad Roach of Gibson Dunn to discuss issues facing energy lawyers and their clients in the industry today.
By Robert Merrick, Herbert Smith Freehills
Last year presented a difficult and turbulent time in the energy sector with the dramatic slide of the price of oil. The oil price, which had previously skyrocketed to over US$100 per barrel in recent years amid an unprecedented growth in US oil production, continued its plunge to as low as US$27 per barrel.
By Alex McLean & Niall Esler, Arthur Cox
The liberalisation of energy markets has given rise to a raft of new regulatory challenges, with policymakers and regulators devising increasingly elaborate responses. Traditional measures of market power have been refined to recognise the power to set prices in time frames which may be only minutes in duration. Dominance is being addressed through measures including regulated contracts, virtual independent power auctions and regulated bidding. Third-party access rights are being structurally reinforced by network unbundling.
The oil industry is currently experiencing its biggest downturn since the 1990s, with the price of a barrel of oil falling to a 13-year low of $26.05 in February. With the price hovering around $45 a barrel, many companies – who have made record profits over recent years – have had to decommission more than two-thirds of their rigs and severely cut investment in exploration and production. Moreover, experts think it may be years before oil returns to $90 or $100 a barrel, which was the norm over the past decade. The renewables market has also been affected and it has similarly seen a slowdown in activity (despite the landmark Paris Agreement from the 2015 UN climate change conference) with cleaner energy sources becoming far more expensive in comparison. Yet despite the pressures the market is facing, the demand for legal services is still strong.
We are pleased to introduce our guide to the energy legal marketplace, which lists an unprecedented 729 leading lawyers from 306 firms across 91 jurisdictions.
The crash of oil prices in late 2014 has been one of the biggest issues in the energy market of the last year, with all lawyers we spoke to in the oil and gas sector speculating on how long this dip in price will last, and what longer-term effects it might have on the market. Renewable and clean energy sources continue to be a growing area of interest, with traditionally oil and gas-focused jurisdictions diversifying.
In the US shale oil and gas has had a big effect on the country’s energy market landscape, while in the Middle East a move towards renewable energies is being seen in the wake of a drop in export levels. With the sanctions imposed against Russia and Iran also hot topics, this year energy lawyers have had plenty to report on the trends in the market in which they specialise.
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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.