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Law and economics of special regimes for transboundary marine energy resources

School of Social Sciences

Dundee United Kingdom Accounting Climate Science Data Analysis Operational Research Economics Law

About the Project

To a large extent, the world’s energy resources are marine, both oil and gas and increasingly renewables. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the universally applicable codification of international law, subjects these resources to a nationalising approach. It allocates resources exclusively to one or another coastal state. The vehicle are the concepts ‘continental shelf’ (which entails rights to exploit seabed resources, such as petroleum) and the ‘exclusive economic zone’ (which entails rights to exploit resources in the water column). In reality, however, resources will straddle these jurisdictional lines, and their equitable, legally certain and efficient exploitation requires a completely different approach that considers the resource as a whole to maximise social welfare. Conciliation by an independent third party, rather than adversarial arbitration and adjudication, can assist States to reach agreement on special regimes for transboundary resources. The successful first ever conciliation under UNCLOS proves that the mechanisms for the negotiated design of such regimes exists. This example is likely to have huge practical implications in many parts of the world.

The PhD project will employ interdisciplinary insights to develop principles underpinning any such unitisation agreement (special regimes) governing transboundary oil or gas exploration projects. Drawing on the law and economics literature, questions to be explored are axioms of rationality underpinning the contractual provisions of unitisation agreements. Another example worthy of further reflection, a corollary to the first example above, is to enshrine that the transboundary exploration projects are exploited in merit order (i.e. starting with the lowest risk-adjusted and geology-informed cost). Yet another principle, is to affirm that the sovereignty of each of the signatories is respected. A country signing up to the unitisation agreement is free to award exploration licenses on its side of the border, ideally through an auction. A final example of a possible contractual primitive is to uphold that a transboundary unitisation agreement is neutral with respect to the fiscal regimes of sovereign signatories.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Professor Volker Röben
For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Applicants must have obtained a 2.1 UK honours degree or higher in a relevant discipline, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK. Applicants should normally have a good taught Masters degree (e.g. an average of B or higher) or equivalent in a relevant discipline from a recognised university.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 5.5 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s English language requirements are available online:


Step 1: Email Professor Volker Röben () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Professor Röben, formal applications can be made via UCAS Postgraduate. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy: Select the start date and study mode (full-time/part-time) agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the ‘provider questions’ section of the application form:
- Write the project title and ‘’ in the ‘if your application is in response to an advertisement’ box;
- Write the lead supervisor’s name and give brief details of your previous contact with them in the ‘previous contact with the University of Dundee’ box.

In the ‘personal statement’ section of the application form, outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.

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