Under Louisiana law, does the operator’s bad faith preclude recovery for the non-operator’s breach of a joint operating agreement if the operator caused the non-operator to breach the JOA but did not itself breach?

Apache’s choice

In Apache Deepwater, LLC v. W&T Offshore, Inc., the litigants were parties to a JOA for operations on offshore deepwater wells. Apache proposed to use two drilling rigs or P&A three wells at a much higher cost than a vessel that had been considered for the operation. W&T contended that Apache’s proposal was for the purpose of offloading to W&T half of $1 million per day stacking costs of a bad rig contract. Apache’s AFE for the P&A using the two rigs was $81 to $104 million, which would be cheaper for them (but not in total) than the alternative. Apache’s story was that the federal regulators would not have approved the original vessel for the operation after Deepwater Horizon.

W&T declined to approve Apache’s AFE. Apache used the two rigs anyway. The work was successful and Apache billed W&T for its 49% share, or $68 million (Note to self: You can’t afford offshore operations). W&T paid $24 million, its share of the original estimate. Apache sued for breach of contract.

The ambiguous JOA

Section 6.2 of the JOA prohibited the operator from conducting any operation costing more than $200,000 without an AFE approved by the non-operator. But Section 18.4 directed the operator to conduct abandonments required by governmental authority and the risks and costs would be shared by the participating parties. No AFE was required.
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