Webinar: Peak oil? Relief from onerous fossil fuel contracts

In recent times, a number of factors have brought a perfect storm to energy markets, particularly in the fossil fuel sector.  Not so many years ago, it was widely believed that increasingly difficult and expensive oil and gas exploration and production would cause prices to rise to the point of limiting consumption and, thereby, economic growth.  Climate change and other environmental effects of hydrocarbon consumption were seen as justifying government intervention (whether through the creation of carbon markets or otherwise) which would also ultimately limit hydrocarbon production.  More recently, renewable power generation, electric vehicles and other clean energy initiatives have started to compete successfully in their own right, leading to an expectation that falling energy prices will make fossil fuels progressively less competitive even without government intervention.

This emerging tendency has been reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated global economic downturn, which have reduced demand for energy generally and for travel in particular.  In the Middle East, responsible for much of the world’s fossil fuel production and a not insignificant part of consumption, this has made performance of many contracts either uneconomic or simply impossible.  Many oil and gas companies have therefore started looking at ways to either renegotiate, suspend or terminate their long-term energy contracts.

This webinar will address the effect of both environmental and pandemic-related developments on the economics of fossil fuel sale contracts, and the dynamic created by these developments and their legal consequences.  It will include the viewpoints of a renowned academic with specialist expertise in environmental force majeure issues and of a practising lawyer with extensive experience in energy contract renegotiations and price disputes.


The speakers for this webinar will be:

Anatole Boute (Professor at Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong).  Dr Boute will address ‘Environmental Force Majeure:  Relief from Fossil Energy Contracts in the Decarbonisation Era’.  Dr Boute specialises in the fields of energy, environmental and investment law.  His research focuses on the legal aspects of the transition of energy systems towards sustainability.  He is the author of Russian Electricity and Energy Investment Law (Brill Nijhoff, 2015) and Energy Security along the New Silk Road: Energy Law and Geopolitics in Central Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2019), and regularly works with multilateral development banks on the legal aspects of energy market reforms and the energy transition.

Graham Coop (Partner at Volterra Fietta) who will chair the webinar and will also address ‘Caught Between a Rock and COVID-19:  Sharing the Pain of Onerous Oil and Gas Contracts in the Middle East’.  Mr Coop is qualified as a barrister and solicitor in New Zealand and as a solicitor with higher rights of audience (Civil) in England and Wales, and his thirty-year legal career includes seven years as General Counsel to the Energy Charter Secretariat between 2004 and 2011.  Mr Coop advises and represents companies, governments and international organisations on international dispute resolution and public international law, with a particular focus on the energy, natural resources and infrastructure and banking sectors.  He has appeared as counsel, advocate and expert before a wide range of international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice, ICSID, the PCA and the ICC.  The cases in which he has been involved as counsel include numerous price review disputes and other price-related disputes in the energy sector.  He has also advised and represented parties to long-term energy sale agreements wishing to negotiate price adjustments in the absence of contractual price review clauses.  He is on the UK Attorney General’s list of public international law practitioners.


For any queries regarding the content of the seminar, please email Graham Coop at