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20 Aug 2013   08:18:46 PM   Tuesday BdST A- A A+ Print this E-mail this

Gas-Field Blowout Compensation

Bangladesh wins Niko case


Bangladesh now can go for realizing $106.35 million in compensation over the Chhatak gas-field blowout as Canadian energy giant Niko lost its cases in the international court.

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID) Monday dismissed two separate cases filed by Niko Resources Ltd. against Bangladesh government, Petrobangla and Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Ltd (Bapex).


The ICSID verdict against Niko was signed by two arbitrators--Prof Campbell McLachlan QC and Jan Paulsson--in presence of ICSID president Michael E Schnelder.


It happens to be a second victory of Bangladesh in international arbitration in gas-related disputes, after the first win against Myanmar in the dispute over the extended economic zone in the Bay of Bengal following the neighbour’s bid for hydrocarbon exploration in the offshore blocks.                 


As per the verdict, Bangladesh now has no bar to securing its right to claim US$106.35 million or Tk 7465.08 million as compensation over the blowouts in Niko-operated Chhatak gas field.


Niko filed ICSID Arbitration case no ARB/10/11 and ICSID Arbitration case no ARB/10/18 against Bangladesh government, Petrobangla and Bapex to get compensation for Chhatak gas-field blowout and realize payment under the Gas Purchase and Sales Agreement (GPSA) in ICSID’s London court in July 2010.


The ICSID held hearing on October 13 and October 14 in 2011. The court declared verdict on Monday against Niko in favour of Bangladesh.


At a press conference, Petrobangla chairman Prof Hossain Monsur said the international court dismissed Niko’s cases against Petrobangla. “So we have no bar to realizing compensation on Chhatak blowout subject to getting verdict in local court,” Petrobangla chief said.


He said Bangladesh government and Petrobangla filed money case no-224/2008 against Niko on June 15, 2008 to get compensation over Chhatak gas-field blowouts.    


He said the local court has already completed hearing and expected to get verdict anytime.      


“We would claim compensation with interest from Niko after getting verdict in favour of us,” he told the press briefing.


He also said that if the company fails to pay compensation, Bangladesh  government will confiscate the assets of Niko.


Councel for the respondents, Tawfique Nawaz, senior advocate of Bangladesh Supreme Court, assisted by Advocate Imtiaz Farooq, on behalf of Jurists Council, supported by Alison Catherine McDonald and Luis Gonzalez Garcia of Matrix Chambers, secured Bangladesh’s right to claim $106 million from Niko in Bangladesh court under the decision passed by the ICSID Tribunal on the issue of Jurisdiction in the cases, Petrobangla said.


In the proceedings before the tribunal, the counsel for the respondents challenged the Jurisdiction of the ICSID Tribunal to hear claims made by Niko Resources (Bangladesh Ltd) against Bangladesh in these cases.


In its decision, ICSID has held that ‘it has no jurisdiction over Bangladesh, which, therefore, will no longer be a respondent in this arbitration.”


Further, the tribunal held that it has no jurisdiction over Petrobangla under the joint venture agreement (JVA), thus sustaining the pending money suit for $106.35 million against Niko in the local court of the district judge, Dhaka filed jointly by Bangladesh and Petrobangla for the blowouts in the Chattak gas field.


However, ICSID has assumed jurisdiction under the JVA and between plaintiff and Bapex to decide a Niko’s request for compensation declaration and claimant’s cooperate claim.


ICSID has assumed jurisdiction to decide Niko’s claim against Petrobangla for sales of gas under the GPSA and has reserved the questions related to the necessary role of Bapex in relation thereto.   


Earlier, Niko Resources Bangladesh Ltd tried to wind up its operation in Bangladesh by selling out its onshore block no-9 venture to Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC), subject to approval by the government.

Petrobangla has no objection to exchanging Niko shares but KFPEC should take the responsibility for blowout incidents on Niko-operated gas-field in Chatak, now pending in the international court, Petrobangla Chairman Prof Hossain Monsur informed Energy and Mineral Resources Division (EMRD) in April, 2013 last.


In a letter sent to EMRD on April 29, Prof Hossain Monsur said, “The share on block no-9 is transferable if KUFPEC is takes all the responsibilities of Niko.”

Earlier, the EMRD sought opinion on block no-9 and its share transfer from Niko Resources Ltd to KUFPEC.

Niraj Al-Adsani, Chairman and Managing Director of Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company last month informed state minister for power and energy Muhammemd Enamul Huq of its move on the block no-9 with Niko.


KUFPEC then informed the government that it bought the shares of Niko without taking any liability, official sources said.


Niko Resources Ltd has 60 percent shares in block no-9 in Feni and Chatak gas fields while 30 percent shares carried out by Tullow and another 10 percent by Bapex.


The Canadian company signed a joint venture agreement (JVA) with Petrobangla to explore gas in well no-3, 4 and 5 in Feni gas field in 2004, Petrobangla officials said.


Niko signed gas purchase and sales agreement (GPSA) with Petrobangla on December 27, 2006, they said.

Bangladesh lodged a case in local court against the Niko in June, 2008 under JVA to claim Tk 7465 million as compensation over the blowout at Chhatak gas-field in 2005. The government also stopped a payment of around $34,000,000 to Niko as per a court directive.


Earlier, the government was deprived of getting compensation due to share handover from the Occidental Petroleum Corporation to Unocal Corporation and then Chevron, reports daily sun.


Gas production at Chhatak gas field has remained halted for the last seven years. The gas field has an estimated one trillion cubic feet of gas reserve. The field was discovered in 1955.                   


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