What Texas Law Tells Us About Mineral vs. Surface Estates!
February 7, 2017
The sale of oil or gas rights in Texas often involves issues over the ownership of mineral and surface estates. In Texas, mineral ownership can be severed from ownership of the surface, such as when a landowner decides to sell or lease their mineral rights. This can create a situation where the surface owner loses control of what happens on their land after the sale of gas and oil rights. Understanding the difference between these two estates and how they apply to each other is essential to avoid any subsequent complications.
Mineral and Surface Estates Are Separate
Texas law states that the surface of the land and the minerals held within the land are two separate estates. While both may be owned and controlled by the same landowner, the two estates can also be owned separately. This could happen after the sale of oil rights to another party or when selling the land while retaining rights to the minerals. When different parties own the surface and mineral estates, specific rules apply concerning the exploration for and extraction of minerals from the ground.
Mineral Estate Maintains Control of Surface Estate
Landowners who own their mineral estates can control when, how, and where they permit the exploration for and extraction of minerals. Yet if they sell or lease their rights, control of the surface usually goes to those who hold the mineral rights. This means the party receiving minerals through the lease or sale of gas rights can dictate when and where they explore for mineral deposits and all drilling operations on the land. With control over the surface, extraction can also occur whenever and wherever the owner or lessee of those rights needs it to be.
Exceptions to the Rule of Surface Control
Although mineral lessees or owners generally have control over the surface estate, there are times when they may be required to plan their exploration or drilling according to certain other rules. These rules include planning around any pre-existing and current use of the surface as cited in the “accommodation doctrine” and any limitations that may be in place regarding drilling close to metropolitan areas. Additionally, those in control of the surface estate may also be required to abide by the limitations set in the property deed. Negotiations contracted at the time of the sale of oil rights may also subject the mineral holder to specific limitations.
When it comes to surface and mineral estates in Texas and control of the surface, the best way for landowners to maintain control is to retain ownership of the mineral rights or negotiate any issues regarding access to the surface. Conversely, any party who leases or obtains ownership through the sale of gas and oil rights and holds all or a significant portion of the estate can maintain control of the surface. In either case, land and mineral owners must understand the complexities of the law regarding severed estates and which estate owner has control over the surface in each specific circumstance. When the sale of oil or gas rights creates a separation of estates, landowners cannot just assume they retain control over what happens on that land!
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