Co-authors Ethan Wood and Chance Decker

Less than a year ago, we discussed the “Unanswered Questions” left in the wake of Devon Energy Prod. Co., LP v. Apache Corp. (which did answer the question, “Who is a ‘Payor’ Under the Texas Natural Resources Code?”). We asked:

“But if the non-participating working interest owner is not paying royalties—what is keeping the lease alive? Absent pooling of the leases or a JOA, the non-participating working interest owner cannot rely on the operator’s actions to perpetuate its leases. A sly operator can obtain top leases from the non-participating working interest lessors and run out the clock on those leases …”

In Cimarex Energy Co. v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the operator did just that …
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Co-author Chance Decker

It’s a tale as old as the oilfield: A non-operator doesn’t pay joint interest billings, operator sues, non-payer claims the expenses were unwarranted and the operator was negligent—no, grossly negligent—for incurring them in the first place. Welcome to OBO, Inc. v. Apache Corporation et al. Despite a creative argument by non-operator OBO that contract operator Apache didn’t have authority to charge JIB’s in the first place, OBO must pay.

The facts
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No, at least not in Dimmit County, Texas, under the facts of In Re: Wood Group PSN, Inc. et al. Twenty-nine contractors and producers were sued by Dimmitt County for damaging a 6.9 mile long non-asphalt county road by their trucks, heavy equipment and other oilfield traffic. Twenty-two moved to dismiss the case. The trial court, in its sound discretion while no-doubt mindful of who votes and where his paycheck comes from, denied the motions. The appellate court reversed. 
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Co-author Niloufar  “Nikki” Hafizi

The 2012 Macondo Well blowout and Deepwater Horizon rig explosion gave rise to a slew of lawsuits. Our subject today is one of them. In Houston Casualty Company v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. the Beaumont court of appeals construed an insurance policy’s excess liability coverage provision. At stake was whether Underwriters had to indemnify Anadarko for over $100 million in defense costs. In an opinion much-decried by energy companies, the court thought not.

The Texas Supreme Court will review the decision, so let’s look at what the court of appeals said. 
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Co-author Paul Yale

Issues surrounding the legality of allocation wells in Texas have been percolating for some time, and lately we’ve heard of potential litigation. So, what’s the fuss about? The results in Klotzman (a Texas Railroad Commission dispute) and Spartan et al v. EOG (a district court case) didn’t resolve the legal questions. Both settled before a ruling. Browning Oil Company v. Luecke provided theoretical underpinnings but didn’t go far enough.

Why does the controversy exist?
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Welcome to the binary edition, where you have a choice: An informative and engaging stroll through the history of the oil and gas business in Texas, or a wonkish and also informative legal analysis.

First, at the recent summer meeting of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners, TIPRO (and Drilling Info) president Allen Gilmer

UPDATED

In light of the adverse effects the storm, floods and tornadoes will have on oil and gas production, transportation and processing operations, we offer several bits of advice:

Force majeure

Winds and floods are among the very reasons for the seldom-invoked force majeure provisions of your oil and gas leases, operating agreements, transportation agreements and other contracts. If your operations are affected by the storm, study your contracts and be mindful of what you will need to do and when in order to invoke the protections force majeure clauses offer.
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Suggestions to Texas lessors after ExxonMobil v. Lazy R Ranch, et al:  Claiming that you were not aware of contamination from oil spills you’ve known about for 20 years is a tough sell, and suing your long-time lessee for millions right after it sells your lease looks a wee bit opportunistic.

For nearly 60 years Exxon operated wells on the 20,000 acre Lazy R Ranch before selling the lease in 2008. The Ranch hired an environmental engineer who identified a total of 1.2 acres in four areas where hydrocarbon contamination exceeded levels set by state law.

In 2009 the Ranch sued Exxon for contamination and sought damages for remediation of the 1.2 acres that would cost $6.3 million. (At least they waited to bite until the hand was no longer dispensing the groceries).

The damage claim presented a problem for the Ranch. Under Texas law the recovery for damages for a permanent injury to real property is generally limited to the difference in value of the property before and after the injury.
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There’s no better place in the oil patch to play the blame game than 10,000 feet of leaky wellbore.

What went wrong?

In Justiss v. Oil Country Tubular Corporation, Justiss, a drilling contractor, entered into an IADC model turnkey drilling contract for a well in Beauregard Parish. The contract specified 12,500 feet of intermediate casing to be LTC pipe with buttress threads. The contract depth was 15,000 feet. Justiss purchased the casing from OCTC.

The operation was star-crossed. Justiss discovered a hole in the surface casing, which it repaired by cementing the casing in place. This made it impossible to remove the intermediate casing string when things got bad. Beginning at 3,500 feet the casing wouldn’t maintain adequate pressure and Justiss performed 13 squeeze jobs in an effort to remedy the problem. These and other efforts to fix the leaks lasted five weeks and cost millions of dollars.  At 13,596 feet the casing would not maintain pressure and, for fear of losing well control, the operation was terminated.

Read this if you sell a product or a service
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Yellow KEEP OUT Barrier TapeCo-author Chance Decker

We know that in Texas the mineral owner has the right to explore for and produce the minerals. What does that leave for the surface owner? In Lightning Oil Company v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, LLC the Texas Supreme Court tells us he owns the right to possess the specific place or space where the minerals are located. Absent pooling or some other contractual arrangement, with that comes the right to grant (for a price) or deny an off-lease operator the right to drill through the mineral estate to reach minerals under an adjacent tract.
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