Cooper denies liability in dispute over Hammamet permit withdrawal

Cooper Energy, an Australian oil and gas exploration and production company, has been served with a request for arbitration by its joint venture partners in the Hammamet Permit, offshore Tunisia. 

The notice was served to Cooper’s  wholly owned subsidiary, CE Hammamet, by joint venture partners Medco Ventures International (Barbados) and DNO Tunisia.

Cooper Energy, with 35% non-operating interest in the permit, has previously reported its intention to withdraw from Tunisia and consistent with this CE Hammamet elected not to participate in the most recent extension of the Hammamet Permit and issued a notice to withdraw from the joint venture on June 16, 2015, in accordance with the terms of the joint operating agreement.

The expiry date for the permit is September 22, 2016.

Cooper said that the parties hold differing opinions regarding the interpretation of the terms of the joint operating agreement regarding ongoing liability to pay for work obligations which may be undertaken during the extension period of the permit following the withdrawal.

According to Cooper, the remaining joint venture parties are now seeking security from CE Hammamet for a 35% share of the cost of drilling a well in the Hammamet Permit, a share which they assert to be at least $13.1 million. They also seek an unspecified amount of damages for the claimed breach of the joint operating agreement, the company added. The remaining joint venture parties have invoked the dispute resolution procedure under the joint operating agreement.

In its statement, Cooper denied liability: “CE Hammamet believes the claim to be without basis and denies any liability for activities undertaken during an extension period of the permit in which it has elected not to participate. CE Hammamet is unaware of firm plans for a well to be drilled at all.

The company concluded: “Accordingly, Cooper Energy considers that it is not obliged to provide the security as requested by the remaining joint venture parties and that it is in shareholders’ interests to defend the claim which it intends to do with vigour.”