Lima-based firm Muñiz Ramírez Pérez-Taiman & Olaya welcomes back Augusto Astorga as a senior partner just over a year after he left, in December 2013, to join Hunt Oil as deputy legal manager.
Astorga is again co-head of the oil and gas practice he helped established nearly 16 years ago.
“I gave myself a period to evaluate if I wanted to pursue my career as in-house,” he said. “Before joining Hunt, I spent almost 16 years at Estudio Muñiz, so it was like a test for me. In the last quarter of 2014, I realized that my preference was to work as outside counsel, focusing on the oil and gas practice and not in the range of legal work you normally do as in-house lawyer. While at Hunt, I endeavored to do my best to contribute to the success of their operations in Peru, and I think I left good friends there.”
Astorga said his experience will contribute to Muñiz Ramírez Pérez-Taiman & Olaya’s oil and gas practice because it gave him first-hand insight of how an oil and gas company as well as an American corporation functions.
“It allowed me to gain direct contact with the operations and environmental department and see their urgencies while conducting an exploration operation in a reserved area in a remote zone of the Peruvian Amazon jungle,” he said. “I realized that a rapid and creative response could be more useful than a perfect elaborated legal response.”
Astorga plans to reconnect with his clientele, including Gran Tierra Energy, Trasportadora de Gas del Perú, and Perenco, among others.
Astorga said he has witnessed the evolution of the Peruvian oil and gas sector, where a lot has happened over time, including the development of the LNG industry and ultra-deep offshore. He has also seen a shale resource boom.
“Legally, the environmental regulations became more stringent,” he said. “Peru has a lot of potential for untapped discoveries, especially natural gas. A natural gas consumption culture has been created with the development of the Camisea gas project some 10 years ago, and that should be used to attract much-needed exploration investment.”
But, according to Astorga, some problems linger.
“The local implementation of the ILO Convention 169 halted the awarding of new exploration licenses four years ago, after much effort the Peruvian Government gained the necessary approval for new area to be tendered, and now the prices scenario does not assure a reward for all these efforts,” he commented. “Peru needs to update its licensing legal regime granting much-needed flexibility, and it also needs to find a creative solution to help existing producers to deal with the current prices scenario.”
The ILO Convention 169 “deals specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples,” according to the International Labor Organization.