What is Oil and Gas Law?

    Oil and gas law refers to the body of laws and regulations that govern the exploration, extraction and production of oil and natural gas resources. Oil and gas law includes laws related to ownership of mineral rights, leasing of land for drilling, environmental and land use regulations along with the transportation and sale of oil and gas. Please contact our oil and gas attorney with any questions regarding oil and gas law!

    What is the Importance of Oil & Gas Law?

    Oil and gas law is important because it ensures oil and gas resources are developed and used in a safe, responsible, and sustainable matter, while protecting the rights of all parties, including landowners, mineral rights holders and the general public. For example, the passing of mineral rights is an important aspect of oil and gas law because it determines who has the legal right to explore and extract oil and gas from a particular piece of land. A consistent body of oil and gas law helps prevent disputes between surface owners and mineral rights holders over oil and gas development and land use of land.

    Oil and gas rig mining subsurface minerals

    Mineral Right vs. Surface Right Ownership

    Surface rights and mineral rights refer to different types of property rights that pertain to land. Surface rights refer to the rights to use and occupy the surface of a piece of land. Owners of surface rights have the right to build structures, farm, graze livestock, and engage in other activities that are done on the surface of the land. Mineral rights ownership refers to the ownership of the minerals that are located beneath the surface of a piece of land.

    Mineral rights refer to the rights to explore for, drill for, and extract resources such as oil, gas, coal, and other minerals from beneath the surface of the land. It’s often the case where the surface owner of a piece of land often does not own the mineral rights of the land. Unlike surface ownership where it’s common to have one owner, mineral rights after commonly owned by multiple people and entities, with varying ownership amounts.

    How can I find out if I own a mineral right?

    Considering annual property taxes and everyday life, people typically know if they own a surface right interest in a piece of land. Unlike surface right ownership, mineral right ownership is often more difficult to clarify and understand. There are several ways to find out if you own a mineral interest:

    • Specific county’s tax mineral right ownership: similar to a surface right ownership, you’d be notified of owning a mineral interest when annual property taxes are issued.
    • Review your property deeds: one of the simplest methods for finding out if you own a mineral interest is to review the deeds to your property. If the property includes mineral rights, it may be specified in the deed. Though reviewing a property deed does not ensure information regarding mineral ownership, it’s a great starting point.
    • Consult an oil and gas brokerage company or oil and gas attorney: An oil and gas brokerage company or attorney can conduct a mineral title search on your property which can provide a detailed report outlining the ownership of the mineral rights and any other information related to the property, including lease and production status.
    • Check with family members: If mineral rights were passed down through your family, check with other family members to see if they know who owns mineral rights or if they have information regarding the location of documents that would indicate mineral right ownership. One reason mineral right interest may not be properly updated is because people often fail to probate the mineral rights of a decedent, meaning they do not legally transfer ownership of the mineral rights from the decedent to the rightful beneficiaries. If a decedent was receiving royalty payments at the time of death, it’s possible the oil and gas operator would stop royalty payments until proper documentation was provided showing the updated ownership of the decedent’s original mineral interest. If the royalties are not being paid, the Personal Representative may need to hire a probate attorney to properly convey the decedent’s mineral interest to the respective beneficiaries. It’s important to note that mineral rights ownership and royalties can be complex, especially if the mineral ownership involves a decedent. It may be best to consult with a Colorado probate attorney who has experience addressing mineral right ownership to ensure the process is handled correctly.
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