I imagine this is a very common question. If I have 80 acres (in Okla.) and there’s a producing gas well on the next 80 to the West, well...what that well is pumping is quite likely to be coming from under my soil, is it not? I’m sure this issue has enriched generations of lawyers, but can someone tell me the outcome? Especially with horizontal drilling (I’m no expert, but I know what “horizontal” means), it seems even more likely that a driller can “lease” a small plot of land, then suck the goodies out from under every other plot for a long distance around the well. Again: how has this been adjudicated? Should I be fighting for my mineral rights? Do my rights go all the way down to China and if so, how does anyone know, at the surface, whose stuff is whose?
I may have chosen the wrong forum -- sorry, I'm not good at this.
I had the same questions and found a power point presentation (if I remember right) that maybe interesting to you. However, I'll have to find it again, but will put a note on my computer to look for it for you this week.
Here's what I found, even though its out of state and the laws are different, it still gives a good description.
Hope this is helps some.
Jim and Kaye,
I'm a geologist and I can help you with your question, if you're still listening. Basically there are laws based on how much oil a well can physically drain at a certain depth, and the state makes drillers stay within a certain spacing. Even though a well might actually drain a circle, these spacing units are generally squares or rectangles. The flip side of your question is that you might get paid royalties inside a spacing unti, but the oil might not be actually coming from directly under your land. Oklahoma rules may seem unnatural to divide the world into squares - but it works way better than down in Texas where they try to figure out how to divide up the oil based on the geology below (which would work fine if you could actually see what was down there).
If you're still listening and have more questions, let me know.
Definitely still listening, April, and thanks for chiming in. You have described in more detail what I was talking about, i.e. drilling over here but sucking up hydrocarbons from over there. As someone living in California with mineral rights in Oklahoma where wells are operating in the vicinity, how do you recommend that I approach the situation? Do I have to sue?
Concerning your original question, I would say you own everything to the center of the earth, but not all the way to China :-)
Depending on where your minerals are, the next 80 might have nothing to do with your lease. In oil areas it is very common for wells to be spaced on 20, 40, or 80 acre spacing. On the other hand, in a gas area the spacing units are commonly 640 acres, or the entire section. Any operator wanting a permit to drill a well in Oklahoma is required to show proof that they have made lease arrangements with all affected parties, and the laws determine who is affected. It would be highly unusual for a well to be illegally drilled and for someone to be stealing your oil. Now it is possible that not all mineral owners can be located. In that case, their royalties are sent to the state unclaimed property fund.
In the case of horizontal wells, where it would be possible to snake a well onto somebody else's lease, the state requires (I believe) that the operator submit downhole surveys to show the well path and the locations within the well bore that are producing. While there are cheaters in the world, and mistakes are sometimes made, I think you can feel fairly certain that if a company spends $3 million drilling a well, they're going to make extra sure they dont cross onto somebody else's lease. Sucking a bit of somebody else's oil isn't worth the risk of losing the well in a lawsuit.
If you want to send me a private message about the location of your minerals, I don't mind doing a quick check to see what's going on there. (go to my profile and click Send Message on the left)
Thanks. I will get my coordinates together and message you.