Co-author Rusty Tucker
What is the standard of care imposed by the Model Form JOA on the well operator? Crimson Exploration Op., Inc. v. BPX Op. Co. gives us the answer, and it is no surprise.
Under a Model Form JOA, BPX as operator and Crimson and other non-operators drilled the McCarn A1H well. After a problem that prevented further drilling the parties agreed to plug and abandon the well.
BPX billed Crimson for its proportionate share of drilling expenses; Crimson refused to pay. In BPX’s suit to recover Crimson’s share of costs, Crimson asserted the affirmative defense of prior material breach by BPX’s failure to act as a prudent operator in drilling the well. Crimson argued the standard of care was a “reasonably prudent operator” while BPX relied on the exculpatory clause in Art. V.A of the JOA that excused liability unless BPX acted with gross negligence or willful misconduct.
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