Wanted to reach out to get any opinions on a SRA lease question. We own property in TX and LA which adjoin SRA owned property on Toledo Bend. Thinking about selling some land on Texas side, and have about 300 submerged acres where mineral rights have been reserved by family. During the boom, Chesapeake had lease options, which expired with the crash in 2008. The big question is; If I grant "surface rights" to the new buyer, do I potentially hurt myself as it relates to any future oil and gas companies' future leasing interest? Also, does anyone know if TX or LA Sabine River Authorities, restrict or prohibit mineral exploration on submerged lands, even though the mineral rights were reserved by the landowner when land was flooded for the dam. Don't want to shoot myself in the foot for not thinking this one through, any insights would be appreciated from fellow Haynesville followers.
When land was taken for the reservoir, all privately owned property that was inundated was granted a perpetual mineral servitude on the Louisiana side. Since there is no prescriptive mineral servitude under Texas mineral law, only a reservation of minerals was required on that side of the Sabine River. I am aware of horizontal wells drilled under portions of the lake on the Louisiana side. As to Texas, I would defer to jffree1.
An operating company can usually find a willing owner for a surface location even if that ownership is limited to the surface. Without knowing the location and shape of the 300 acre tract, it is impossible to assess the potential impact on the ability to produce your minerals if the new surface owner was not willing to grant surface use. I think that the mineral estate has supremacy over the surface estate in TX if memory serves and that an operator could force the issue but no one likes to buy a law suit. That would be a question for an O&G attorney with TX experience.
Samson Lone Star used a drill site in Shelby County to drill into a lease on the LA side of the river so I don't see that the SRA would have any issue. I can't say what the other submerged mineral owners thought about that or whether it ended up in a suit. I'm not even sure, without looking, if it ever produced but I do know that the named well on this side was changed after drilling to a LA lease name and that's where I quit watching it. There was never much interest over here on drilling under the lake, otherwise. CHK got the closest to the river on the TX side but they stayed on dry land with their lease boundaries so there are no test cases.
Thanks, Julie. Because of the north/south orientation of the HA/BO laterals and the orientation of the lake in the northern part with economic shale, all the LA side wells under the lake were drilled to the south from LA surface locations. The ones that I recall were early in the Play by Comstock and Eagle.
My thanks to Skip and Julie for replying to my inquiry. CHK did have "dry land" leased adjoining our submerged mineral acres under Toledo Bend. Tough decision to sell, if I grant surface rights, because I don't want to compromise any future gas companies' interest in leasing, particularly when Haynesville market is beginning to look better. Any suggestions as to access details/locations of our submerged holdings, I don't think I have original mapping of the property when it was condemned by Texas SRA?
You're welcome, shelby. The Texas Sabine River Authority would be my first stop for any surveys that might show your inundated acreage. I think you can draft a deed of sale that maintains your right to grant surface use limited solely to mineral development. If you further agree to let the buyer have some input on location, they might feel like they have some control that might even result in improvements they would appreciate or might make the property more valuable on resale such as a road that provides access to your lake frontage. As the surface owner, they could get compensation for any surface use such as a well pad, easement or right-of-way along with having a say where any roads or rights-of-way would be located.
If push comes to shove and there is a definite intention by a company to drill wells that include your property, you could grant a portion of your mineral right to the surface owner. You might even consider that as part of the sale. Reserve half, convey half and have a deed that states that surface use for mineral development will be allowed. A really good O&G attorney should be able to draft something along these lines. Good luck.
Skip, Many, many, thanks for your time, and advice on alternate strategies to protect our mineral estate.