Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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In this contract dispute over an offset provision in an oil and gas lease the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s judgment in the lessee’s favor, holding that the court of appeals read a requirement into the lease that its unambiguous language did not support. In reversing, the court of appeals concluded that the lessee did not conclusively prove that it complied with the offset provision. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and reinstated the trial court’s judgment s modified to remove the award of appellate attorney’s fees, holding (1) the offset provision contained specific requirements, and the lessee met those requirements; and (2) the court of appeals’ reading of the offset provision to contain a proximity requirement constituted a significant deviation from the language the parties chose. View "Murphy Exploration & Production Co. v. Adams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment that the statute of limitations barred a claim for breach of a recorded right of first refusal to purchase a mineral interest and reinstated the judgment of the trial court rendering judgment for the rightholders, holding that the discovery rule applied to defer accrual. The grantors of the right of first refusal to purchase the mineral interest in this case conveyed the mineral interest to a third party without notifying the rightholders. More than four years later, the holders sued the third party for breach, seeking specific performance. The trial court rendered judgment for the holders. The court of appeals reversed, holding (1) the rightholders’ cause of action accrued when the grantors conveyed the property without notice, and (2) the discovery rule did not apply to defer accrual. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a grantor’s conveyance of property in breach of a right of first refusal, where the rightholder has no notice of the grantor’s intent to sell, is inherently undiscoverable and that the discovery rule applies to defer accrual of the holder’s cause of action until he knew or should have known of the injury. View "Carl M. Archer Trust No. Three v. Tregellas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the royalty interest reserved to the grantor in a 1951 deed was fixed - or set at a specific percentage of production - rather than floating - dependent on the royalty amount in the applicable oil and gas lease. Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the deed reserved a floating one-half royalty interest. The trial court declared that the deed reserved a floating one-half royalty interest. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the royalty interest was fixed. The Supreme Court reversed in light of the language and structure of the reservation at issue, holding that the deed unambiguously reserved a floating one-half interest in the royalty in all oil, gas, or other minerals produced from the conveyed property. View "U.S. Shale Energy II, LLC v. Laborde Properties, L.P." on Justia Law

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The common law rule against perpetuities does not invalidate a grantee’s future interest in the grantor’s reserved non-participating royalty interest (NPRI). Lorene Koopmann and her two children sought declaratory judgment against Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Company, L.P. and Lois Strieber to construe a warranty deed by which Strieber conveyed fee simple title to a tract of land to Lorene and her late husband. Under the deed, Strieber reserved a fifteen-year, one-half NPRI. The Koopmans claimed that they were the sole owners of an NPRI as of December 27, 2011. They also asserted claims against Burlington, which leased the tract from the Koopmanns, for breach of contract and other claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Koopmans as to the declaratory action and granted summary judgment for Burlington on the negligence and negligence per se claims. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court held (1) the rule against perpetuities does not invalidate the Koopmann’s future interest in the NPRI; (2) Tex. Nat. Res. Code 91.402 does not preclude a lessor’s common law claim for breach of contract; and (3) the court of appeals properly entered judgment as to attorney’s fees pursuant to Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a. View "ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over an offset provision in an oil and gas lease the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s summary judgment in the lessee’s favor on the grounds that the lessee did not conclusively demonstrate compliance with the provision. On appeal, the court of appeals determined that the lessee did not conclusively prove that it complied with the offset provision and thus was not entitled to summary judgment. In reversing, the Supreme Court held (1) the offset provision contained specific requirements, and the lessee met those requirements; and (2) the court of appeals read a requirement into the lease that its unambiguous language did not support. View "Murphy Exploration & Production Co. v. Adams" on Justia Law

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The Parker County Appraisal District did not employ a facially unlawful means of appraising Taxpayers’ property, which appeared to derive much of its market value from saltwater disposal wells in which wastewater from oil and gas operations could be injected and permanently stored underground. When valuing for tax purposes Taxpayers’ tracts of land in Parker County, the Parker County Appraisal District assigned one appraised value to the wells and another appraised value to the land itself. Taxpayers argued before the trial court that the Tax Code did not permit the County to appraise the wells separately from the land itself where both interests are owned by the same person and have not been severed into discrete estates. The trial court granted summary judgment for Taxpayers. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was nothing improper in the District’s decision to separately assigned and appraise the surface and the disposal wells, which were part of Taxpayers’ real property and contributed to its value; and (2) the Tax Code does not prohibit the use of different appraisal methods for different components of a property. View "Bosque Disposal Systems, LLC v. Parker County Appraisal District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s ruling that TRO-X, LP was entitled to a back-in percentage of the working interest in five mineral leases under which Anadarko Petroleum was lessee. TRO-X sued Anadarko, asserting claims for breach of contract and trespass to try title and seeking a declaratory judgment that the leases were top leases and therefore subject to TRO-X’s back-in interest. The trial court concluded that the leases were top leases, in which TRO-X retained a back-in interest, rather than new leases, which washed out TRO-X’s interest. In reversing, the court of appeals concluded that the leases were not top leases. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the leases at issue were not top leases subject to TRO-X’s back-in interest. View "TRO-X, L.P. v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law

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In this case involving competing claims to mineral-lease interests in two tracts of land, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court and court of appeals that the acreage Endeavor Energy Resources, LP and Endeavor Petroleum, LLC (collectively, Endeavor) retained under “retained-acreage clauses” in expired leases did not include the two tracts at issue. Discovery Operating, Inc., which drilled producing wells on the two subject tracts, claimed the mineral-lease interests based on leases acquired directly from the mineral-estate owners. Endeavor based its claim on prior leases with the same owners covering land that included the two subject tracts. Endeavor never drilled on the tracts, and Endeavor’s leases’ terms had expired. However, the leases included “retained-acreage clauses” providing that the leases would continue after they expired as to a certain number of acres associated with each of the wells Endeavor drilled on adjacent tracts. Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the lower courts, holding that “a governmental proration unit assigned to a well” refers to acreage assigned by the operator, not by field rules. View "Endeavor Energy Resources, LP v. Discovery Operating, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals in this case requiring interpretation of retained-acreage provisions in oil-and-gas lease instruments, holding that acreage “included within the proration unit for each well…prescribed by field rules” refers to acreage set by the field rules, not acreage assigned by the operator. XOG Operating, LLC conveyed to Chesapeake Exploration Limited Partnership and Chesapeake Exploration, LLC (collectively, Chesapeake) its rights as lessee under four oil-and-gas leases in three sections of land. Under a retained-acreage provision, the assigned interest would revert to XOG after the primary term. As relevant to appeal, Chesapeake would retain for each well drilled the acreage “included within the proration…unit” “prescribed by field rules.” The acreage not retained by Chesapeake would revert to XOG on termination of the assignment. Chesapeake completed six wells during the primary term of the assignment, five of which were located in an area for which the Railroad Commission had promulgated field rules. The sixth well was located in an area for which there were no field rules. In Chesapeake’s view, it retained all of the assigned acreage. XOG sued Chesapeake to construe the retained-acreage provision. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision that the none of the land at issue reverted to XOG under the retained-acreage provision. View "XOG Operating, LLC v. Chesapeake Exploration Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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The common law rule against perpetuities does not invalidate a grantee’s future interest in the grantor’s reserved non-participating royalty interest (NPRI). In addition, section 91.402 of the Texas Natural Resources Code does not preclude a lessor’s common law claim for breach of contract. The court of appeals concluded that the rule did not bar the grantees’ future interest in the NPRI. The court, however, found that the reservation’s savings clause was ambiguous and remanded the case for a jury to determine the proper interpretation. The court held that section 91.402 does not bar a claim for breach of contract. Finally, while determining that several of the grantees’ claims failed as a matter of law, the court of appeals upheld the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees against the grantor pursuant to Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann" on Justia Law