New Zealander joins global petroleum negotiators’ board

New Zealand lawyer, Sean Rush, has become the first resident New Zealander to be represented on the Board of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators (AIPN) and aims to use the role to promote New Zealand as a preferential investment opportunity.

"Despite current oil prices, with New Zealand’s offshore acreage 6 times larger than the UK’s prolific North Sea resource, New Zealand is well placed to be an investment destination of choice for multi-national explorers taking a long term view.

“There are many international examples of how a vibrant petroleum sector in partnership with a stable and transparent Government can make a meaningful difference to ordinary people’s lives by providing sustainable employment, tax and royalty revenues whilst maintaining the highest level of health and safety standards.

“New Zealand’s own petroleum sector experience is a good one and includes the labour intensive construction of the Kapuni and Maui pipelines and the success in Taranaki all without a major spill or undue environmental event to date,” he said.

Mr Rush says given the natural seeps evident both on and offshore of the East Coast and the presence of significant deposits of gas hydrates, it is only a question of time before a large discovery is made.

“With gas producing half the carbon emissions of coal per unit of electricity produced, the opportunity to export gas to less fortunate countries who are dependent on coal for their primary energy needs is perhaps the best thing New Zealanders can do to reduce global carbon emissions, and at the same time provide New Zealanders with employment opportunities and royalty revenues,” he said.

Mr Rush’s firm, Spindletop Law, is New Zealand’s only boutique oil and gas legal practice. Established in Wellington in 2014, as the price of oil was plummeting Mr Rush says: “Counter-intuitively, it was an ideal time to build a low-cost business servicing the international petroleum sector at a time when cost control was becoming a larger focus for oil companies.”

His legal career has taken him from prisons to rigs.  Starting out as a Hawke’s Bay criminal lawyer in 1992, Mr Rush’s OE in 1994 led him into the petroleum sector; initially in London, followed by the Middle East, Canada and back to London. Returning to New Zealand in 2013 as Todd Energy’s upstream commercial manager, Mr Rush is one of New Zealand’s most experienced petroleum lawyers.

Spindletop focuses on oil and gas joint ventures, acquisitions, developments, gas sales, disputes. Having an active international network has enabled him to maintain a focus on oil and gas and at the same time to diversify geographically, all from his offices in Wellington’s CBD.

With many petroleum contracts world-wide governed by English law, Mr Rush has maintained his English law practicing certificate and has reconnected with his former law firm, Memery Crystal LLP in London, as a specialist consultant English law solicitor to advise their oil and gas clients.

“The AIPN offers oil and gas legal and commercial negotiators the opportunity to be part of a global network of professionals grappling with issues common to the petroleum sector.

“It connects us with counterparts around the world and I hope to be able to grow the AIPN membership in New Zealand.

“While petroleum negotiation is a more niche market in New Zealand than in other countries there is still ample opportunity for legal and commercial professionals here to benefit from membership,” Sean said.

The AIPN has 4,500 members worldwide.