The Application of Civil Liability for the Risks of Offshore Methane Hydrates

94 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2014 Last revised: 27 Jan 2015

See all articles by Roy Andrew Partain

Roy Andrew Partain

School of Law, University of Aberdeen; IUS Commune Research School

Date Written: July 14, 2014


A potentially huge untapped resource of natural gas exists just offshore almost every coastal state in the world, the resource called methane hydrates. The opportunities for fiscal revenues, energy security, and freshwater resources will be attractive to many of those states; for many, the commercial development of offshore methane hydrates could bring substantial improvements to public welfare.

But offshore methane hydrates present new and potentially cataclysmic risks in their extraction and production. There are risks of voluminous greenhouse gas emissions, subsea landslides, and tsunamis. There are also a variety of non-cataclysmic risks posed by the development of offshore methane hydrates. Most of these risks are novel and were not present in earlier offshore oil and gas extraction projects.

The need to provide legal guidance to optimize the reduction of risk and hazards from the extraction and production of offshore methane hydrates should be addressed in advance of initial commercial operations. This paper calls for the application of civil liability rules to be a part of the governance mechanism of that environment risk, and in particular, for the rule of strict liability to be applied.

Keywords: law and economics, tort law, civil liability, regulations, private regulations, methane hydrates, gas hydrates, energy law, accident law, Shavell, Posner, Faure, offshore, energy, natural gas, strict liability, negligence

JEL Classification: K00, K13, K2, K32 , K33, N7, O13, O32, O33, Q20, Q28, Q32, Q38, Q42

Suggested Citation

Partain, Roy Andrew, The Application of Civil Liability for the Risks of Offshore Methane Hydrates (July 14, 2014). Fordham Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 26, No. 2, 2015, Available at SSRN: or

Roy Andrew Partain (Contact Author)

School of Law, University of Aberdeen ( email )

Taylor Building
King's College
Aberdeen, Scotland AB24 3UB
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://

IUS Commune Research School ( email )


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics