Seismic Survey company trying to strong-arm into accepting terms

(I’ve posted 2 other posts about this - but each is a specific question, so I separated each question into its own post)

This is a more general question about the situation, which is: A seismic survey company has reached out to us wanting to do a seismic survey on our land (120 acres, of which was are full land owners, and 50% mineral owners) for basically a very bad offer.

From the looks of it, they do seismic surveys, and then sell that information to potential drillers, so the drillers know if/where oil is before they start drilling

This brought to our attention the whole concept of seismic surveying. I guess I had assumed that each drilling company did their own surveying themselves. I didn’t realize their were independent contractors doing this.

This made us think that it might be useful for us to have this information as well. To have a better idea of the potential for future drilling on our land. When we asked for this in the terms (a copy of the report) they flat out refused and then tried to strong-arm us by saying “if you don’t agree, we’ll just go to the other owners and get their permission”.

So this brought up several questions that I have for the helpful members of the forum here:

  • How would you handle this situation with the seismic surveyer - ie trying to strong arm us into a bad deal.
  • Would it actually be a good idea to get our own seismic report done? Is this even a thing indidivual owners can do?

And any and all other ideas that anybody has about this situation - what I might be overlooking, other things I should be considering?..

Appreciate all feedback!


Seismic data interpretation requires specialty expertise and programs. It is not a written report. Even small oil companies have to hire experts to handle the data. Seismic data does not absolutely pinpoint the location and quantities of oil. It is more of a matter of interpretation for guidance by specialists working for the oil company.

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The seismic company is not strong-arming you. Their comment is perfectly legitimate and is common business practice.

It is extremely unlikely that the geophysical company will give you the seismic data. It can cost millions of dollars to shoot and they consider the data highly proprietary to the company that contracted it (unless you want to pay for it!) Seismic data requires very sophisticated 3D software and computers and knowledge to interpret it. The seismic does not spit out a “report in words” that a lay person would understand. It takes months to process highly mathematical data and even more months for a geophysicist or geologist to interpret it. The surveys are likely covering many square miles of area and may be funded by more than one operator who wants the data.

The surface owner is usually paid a small fee per acre and perhaps some improvements. We had a nice pond road done on our property instead of getting paid.

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M Barnes, can you tell me what the benefit is to the land owner, to allow such surveys? At the end of the day, if somebody is coming in and blasting up your land, there has to be something in it for you as well. The deal presented to us by this survey company seemed to be one in which they get all of the bnefit, and we get a measly $3000 to then fix the damage done to our land. So I’m trying to understand why this type of lopsided (and seemingly unfair) deal would be accepted. Do you as the land/mineral owner get anything else out of it?

Maybe this depends on your current use of surface. Damage is minimal as these are sound wave based, not dynamite. Placed in lines across surface and radiate under ground. They do not tear up all the surface. However if you are farming and have water or other lines out there, then you would want to specify that any vehicles eg ATV to lay lines only go on specified lines and ask for additional crop or equipment damages and losses of crop value, in addition to general compensation.

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You need to inquire whether they are using dynamite or Vibroseis or equivalent technology. The dynamite holes are not that big and do not do much damage. If Vibroseis, then they are using sound vibrations and not doing much damage at all.

In our case, we had an overgrown area and they had to whack their way through to set the dynamite holes. They wanted to go over our pond, so we had a nice road cut through. You can’t even tell where the holes were. So we took a road over any payments. If you have scrubbrush, then not much whacking to do.

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“From the looks of it, they do seismic surveys, and then sell that information to potential drillers, so the drillers know if/where oil is before they start drilling”

I think you answered your own question. If the survey uncovers some good prospects then the real money starts to flow. Surface damages for the drilling location, easement money for construction of flow lines, and finally royalty checks from the production!

They have done seismic on our place just south of you across the state line numerous times over the years. They keep improving the technology and sometimes shoot the same area again…

If you own all of the surface they have to have your permission and pay “damages”! If there are multiple mineral owners they only have to get permission from one of the mineral owners IN TEXAS. Charge them, in addition to the damage fee, a price per day from the first day until the last. Also do not give them a release for any damages done until they are completely finished. In some of the low areas, creek bottoms the holes they drilled collapsed and water flowed and flooded the land. Later a few months after they finished some of the holes became “seeps” and sort of “sink holes”. You don’t need an attorney as you probably won’t get much for the 120 acres. Try to find out how many holes they intend to drill and get a map of the location of the holes along with the depth. Good Luck.

In about 2010 there was a huge 500 plus square mile shoot done in an area where I owned surface and minerals and some area’s the minerals only. I was in an “overlap zone” the company shot and laid lines and drilled 150 ft. holes. They were in and out of the farm for over 6 months. This was a 3-D survey. Everytime I looked up it seemed they would be in riding around on their ATV’s and equipment. The mistake I made was not charging them extra for every day they were in and out in addition to the initial payment. I did not have this problem with a pipeline company. They paid me from start to finish which was about a 6 month period. This was in East Texas, not New Mexico. They gave me the data across the farm and about 1 mile on each side of it. This data in the form they sent it was worthless to me. Most of the time I suspect that there are multiple companies joining together to pay a portion of the shoot. It’s just about like dealing with landmen and lease brokers. But they sort of have eminent domain in Texas. They were a PAIN!

Thank you mineral owner 5, I appreciate hearling others’ experience! I’m sorry you had to go through that, but that you for giving me a heads up.

Thanks for your input Joe. It helps to hear from others who have gone through this.

10 4 glad to help. I believe this project they are working on now is called the Sandhills Project and got started in 2020 but was put on hold until now. We have had lots of seismic over the yrs. Even let some individuals do some experimental 3d with their garage inventions!

I have land in Oklahoma and the seismic surveyors used the road to do the survey as they didn’t want to have to pay the farmers. You are lucky they are paying you. And the drillers aren’t the ones getting the information. A very large company is all that could afford it and the reports are worthless to the landowner unless you can read the logs. I think they are trying to do all the US as that will help with faults, minerals and oil play. Sometimes you have to give a little to get a well and surveying is one way to do that.


Thanks everyone for the valuable insights. I’m so glad this forum exists, otherwise I would be swimming in it blind!

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