Oil and Gas Law is the area of law dealing with the legal business of oil, gas, and mining.

The best example of the government regulating the ownership of oil in the country is when the laws and regulations differ considerably from those found in Europe. Oil and gas are owned privately in the U.S. instead of being held by the national government in numerous other countries. The individual states in the U.S. regulate oil and gas extraction through statutes and common law. While the federal and state estate laws apply, it is more important to benchmark yourself against the image of oil and gas ownership in the country.

All Rights

Depending on the rights connected with the land, oil and gas rights may be owned by private individuals, corporations, Indian tribes, or local, state, state, or federal governments.

Oil and gas rights are the assets behind oil and gas development. Each state (like Texas, for example) in the United States owns its oil and gas rights and leases them to oil companies for growth. Companies drilling for oil offshore by purchasing a state's oil and gas rights or obtaining leases from the state or federal government.

Although oil and gas laws vary by state, the rules regarding ownership before, at, and after extraction are practically universal. An owner of real estate also owns the minerals underneath the surface unless the minerals are severed under a preceding deed or an agreement.

Oil and gas are fluids. They flow in the subsurface through property boundaries. As such, whoever owns the fee of the soil owns everything below the surface, limited by the surface area rights.

Rule of Capture and Correlative Rights Doctrine
  • Rule of Capture is a legal term that refers to the owner's right to take all the minerals contained beneath a property, regardless of depth or cost.
  • The Correlative RightsDoctrine refers to a right granted by the United States to adjoining states to use their natural resources.

The two doctrines work together to give landowners the exclusive rights to all minerals under their lands.

The application of the legal doctrines makes for exciting law. Which is more relevant for a given set of facts is a function of State law. For federal income taxes, the concepts apply in offshore operations concerning the state's authority to dispose of oil and gas "Royalty Interests."