continuous drilling provision

Co-author Rusty Tucker

As Humpty Dumpty would have said to Alice if he were Justice Dumpty of the Texas Supreme Court, the term means whatever the parties to an oil and gas lease say it means, neither more nor less. In Sundown Energy LP, et al. v. HJSA No. 3, Ltd. P’ship  the term “drilling operations” meant that activities other than spudding-in new wells were sufficient to satisfy a continuous operations clause.

The lease

In a lease in Ward County, 19,570 acres from the surface to the base of the Pennsylvanian formation were “Producing Areas”. The remainder covered all depths as to 10,880 acres plus depths in the Producing Areas below the Pennsylvanian. During the primary term, production in paying quantities from anywhere on the leased premises would maintain the entire lease. At the end of the primary term lessee Sundown was required to reassign its rights in each tract not then held by production unless Sundown was engaged in a “continuous drilling program.” The continuous drilling clause in Paragraph 7(b) read:

The obligation . . . to reassign tracts not held by production shall be delayed for so long as Lessee is engaged in a continuous drilling program on that part of the Leased Premises outside of the Producing Areas. The first such continuous development well shall be spudded-in on or before the sixth anniversary of the Effective Date, with no more than 120 days to elapse between completion or abandonment of operations on one well and commencement of drilling operations on the next ensuing well.

Sundown spudded-in three development wells prior to the end of the primary term and then spent over $40 million drilling 14 more wells from 2006 to 2015.
Continue Reading What are “Drilling Operations”?