Oil and Gas Law

What is Oil and Gas Law?

Oil and Gas Law in the United States is the branch of law that pertains to the acquisition and ownership rights in oil and gas both under the soil before discovery and after its capture, and adjudication regarding those rights.

The law regulating oil and gas ownership in the U.S. generally differs considerably from laws in Europe because oil and gas are often owned privately in the U.S. as opposed to being owned by the national government in numerous other countries. In the U.S., extraction of oil and gas is by and large regulated by the individual states through statutes and common law. Federal and constitutional law do apply as well.


In the United States, oil and gas rights to a certain parcel may be owned by private individuals, corporations, Indian tribes, or by local, state, or federal governments. Oil and gas rights extend vertically downward from the property line. Unless unambiguously separated by a deed, oil and gas rights are owned by the surface landowner. Once severed from surface ownership, oil and gas rights may be bought, sold, or transferred, like other real estate property.

Oil and gas rights offshore are owned by either the state or federal government and leased to oil companies for development.

Although oil and gas laws vary by state, the laws regarding ownership prior to, 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.

Unless mineral rights are severed, whoever owns the fee of the soil owns everything below the surface, limited by the extent of the surface rights. Oil and gas are fluids, because of this; they may flow in the subsurface through property boundaries. An operator may lawfully extract oil and gas from beneath the land of another, if the extraction is legally conducted on his own property. An operator may not, however, angle a well to penetrate beneath property not owned by or leased to him.

Rule of Capture and Correlative Rights Doctrine

The two conflicting legal doctrines covering oil and gas extraction are the rule of capture, and the correlative rights doctrine. Which of the doctrines applies in a particular case depends on state law, which varies considerably from state to state, or in the case of the federal offshore zone, on US federal law.

For more information on Gas Laws, please use the resources below or contact one of the attorneys on our Law Firms page.

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Articles on HG.org Related to Oil and Gas Law

  • Sales Tax Surge to Help Texas to Keep Its Books in Balance
    Keeping the books of the state of Texas balanced can be something of a challenge. The past session of the Texas Legislature balanced the 2018-19 budget, albeit barely. The next session, due to start in a year, is going to face quite a challenge in making sure that spending matches tax receipts.
  • State Funded Network of Sensors Begins to Track Fracking Related Earthquakes in Texas
    Houston Public Media is reporting that a network of seismology sensors, partly funded by the state of Texas, is up and running. The TexNet Seismic Monitoring program, run by the University of Texas at Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology, is designed to track earthquakes in the state and to determine how and to what extent they are being caused by oil field fracking operations.
  • Environmental Regulations Effect on Small Businesses
    There are several environmental regulations that are in place for numerous larger and smaller businesses in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency has put these in place to protect the world from the practices and behavior of the owners and management of entities so that the products and services to not harm the environment as much as they usually would.
  • Wetlands Damage by Exxon
    ExxonMobil Corporation and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) received court approval of a $225 million consent judgment on August 25, 2015, in a closely-watched dispute over natural resource damages (NRD) caused by the oil giant.
  • Environmental Claims Law
    Environmental claims law is highly specialized and if a person is seeking to build a case and potentially seek damages for issues, a qualified and experienced attorney in the field of environmental claims law is a must.
  • Shale Gas in Texas
    Shale formations are an invaluable resource when it comes to natural gas and oil. The side effects of drilling in these shale deposits, however, can be costly. Shale is a type of rock which is made out of mud, clay, and fragments of other minerals. Shale is characterized by the thin layers make up the rock, meaning it can easily splinter and flake.
  • Texas Fracking Disclosure Law Will Help Analyze Water Concerns
    Texas fracking disclosure law goes into effect February 1, 2012. According to reports, on February 1, 2011, Texas drilling operators will be required to begin reporting many of the chemicals used in a process known as hydraulic fracturing. Industry sources say hydraulic fracturing is a process in which a mixture of water and chemicals is shot into the earth in order to recover excess oil and gas.
  • Renewable Energy Credits: Representations and Warranties Every Buyer Should Ask for
    When buying renewable energy credits (RECs), purchasers should make sure to negotiate a short but critical set of REC-focused representations and warranties. These representations and warranties are promises regarding the REC itself or the seller’s ownership of the REC.
  • Ongoing Arbitration for Mobil Oil over Venezuelan Assets
    Mobil Corporation's claims in international arbitration against Venezuela's national oil company raises issues common to all commercial transactions that cross borders.
  • Families Await Answers Following Oil Rig Explosion off Louisiana Coast
    The Coast Guard has called off its search for 11 oil rig workers missing after the explosion of Deep Water Horizon last Tuesday. Assumed dead, the 11 missing workers join 17 other victims injured in the accident - four of whom remain in critical condition.
  • All Environmental and Natural Resources Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Environmental and Natural Resources including: agricultural law, animal law, energy, environmental law, equine law, forestry and fisheries, natural resources, oil and gas.

Oil and Gas Law - US

  • ABA - Oil and Gas Committee

    The Oil and Gas Committee is a new committee that combines the work of the former Global Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Committee and International Energy and Resources Transactions Committees to create a broader-based committee dealing with oil and gas issues. It provides a venue for energy law practitioners who wish to monitor, discuss and explore legal trends and developments that impact the practice of law within the oil and gas industry.

  • Bureau of Land Mangement - Oil and Gas

    BLM Oil and Gas Management The BLM Oil and Gas Management program is one of the most important mineral leasing programs in the Federal government. Domestic production from over 63,000 Federal onshore oil and gas wells accounts for 11 percent of the Nation’s natural gas supply and five percent of its oil. The sales value of the oil and gas produced from public lands exceeded $15.4 billion in 2004.

  • Department of Energy

    The Department of Energy's overarching mission is to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States; to promote scientific and technological innovation in support of that mission; and to ensure the environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex.

  • Environmental Regulation of the Exploration and Production Industry

    Environmental Regulation of the Exploration and Production Industry Oil and natural gas development and production occur at over 860,000 sites in 33 states, and to protect the environment, federal and state governments have imposed regulations on oil and natural gas industry activity in the United States. Numerous environmental agencies have regulations that affect the exploration, development, and production processes.

  • EPA - Oil and Gas Production Wastes

    The average concentration of the radium in the oil and gas wastes at offsite and onsite disposal facilities is approximately 120 pCi/g. Sludges containing elevated TENORM are now dewatered and held in storage tanks for later disposal. Produced waters are now generally reinjected into deep wells or, in the case of offshore production facilities, are discharged into non-potable coastal waters. As of 1992 there are 166,000 injection wells in 31 states.

  • EPA - Oil Spills

    EPA seeks to prevent, prepare for, and respond to oil spills that occur in and around inland waters of the United States. EPA is the lead federal response agency for oil spills occurring in inland waters, and the U.S. Coast Guard is the lead response agency for spills in coastal waters and deepwater ports.

  • Federal Land Policy and Management Act

    Federal Land Policy Management Act, or FLPMA (Pub.L. 94-579), is a United States federal law that governs the way in which the public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management are managed. The law was enacted in 1976 by the 94th Congress. In the FLPMA, Congress recognized the value of the public lands, declaring that these lands would remain in public ownership. Congress used the term "multiple use" management, defined as "management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people." It is found in the United States Code under Title 43.

  • Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act of 1987 (FOOGLRA)

    Another amendment to the Mineral Leasing Act, The Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act of 1987 granted the USDA Forest Service the authority to make decisions and implement regulations concerning the leasing of public domain minerals on National Forest System lands containing oil and gas. The Act changed the analysis process from responsive to proactive. The BLM administers the lease but the Forest Service has more direct involvement in the leasing process for lands it administers. The Act also established a requirement that all public lands that are available for oil and gas leasing be offered first by competitive leasing.

  • Forest Service Oil and Gas Regulations

    This subpart sets forth the rules and procedures by which the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture will carry out its statutory responsibilities in the issuance of Federal oil and gas leases and management of subsequent oil and gas operations on National Forest System lands, for approval and modification of attendant surface use plans of operations, for monitoring of surface disturbing operations on such leases, and for enforcement of surface use requirements and reclamation standards.

  • Mineral Lands and Mining - Title 30

    Title 30 of the United States Code outlines the role of mineral lands and mining in the United States Code.

  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    Enacted in 1970, NEPA established a national policy to encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment and to promote the prevention and elimination of damage to the environment and biosphere. At the heart of NEPA is the requirement that environmental impact statements (EISs) be prepared for all major federal agency actions significantly affecting the human environment.

  • Natural Gas Act

    The Natural Gas Act (NGA) of 1938 was the first instance of direct Federal regulation of the natural gas industry. Concern about the exercise of market power by interstate pipeline companies prompted the NGA, which gave the Federal Power Commission (FPC) (subsequently the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)) the authority to set "just and reasonable rates" for the transmission or sale of natural gas in interstate commerce.

  • Northern Pipeline Act - Agreement between Canada and the United States

    An Act to establish the Northern Pipeline Agency, to facilitate the planning and construction of a pipeline for the transmission of natural gas from Alaska and Northern Canada and to give effect to the Agreement between Canada and the United States of America on principles applicable to a Northern natural gas pipeline.

  • Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) - Royalties

    The ONRR is an office under the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget within the Department of the Interior. The ONRR is responsible for the efficient, timely, and accurate collection and disbursement of all royalty payments, rentals, bonuses, fines, penalties, assessments, and other revenue due the Federal Government, Indian Tribes and allottees, States and the American people from the leasing and production of natural resources from Federal and Indian lands onshore and the Outer Continental Shelf.

  • Oil and Gas Extraction Industry

    This section discusses the federal regulations that may apply to this sector. The purpose of this section is to highlight and briefly describe the applicable federal requirements, and to provide citations for more detailed information.

  • Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act

    The Royalty Management Act affirmed the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to administer and enforce all rules and regulations governing oil and gas leases on Federal or Indian Land, and established a policy aimed at developing a comprehensive system to manage royalties derived from leased oil and gas operations. Typically, oil and gas lessees pay the federal government royalties of 12.5 percent of the value of oil and gas removed or sold from each lease.

  • Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing

    The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as amended, and the Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947, as amended, give the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) responsibility for oil and gas leasing on about 570 million acres of BLM, National Forest, and other Federal lands, as well as private lands where mineral rights have been retained by the Federal Government. The BLM works to assure that development of mineral resources is in the best interests of the Nation.

  • OSHA - Oil and Gas Well Drilling, Servicing and Storage

    This section highlights OSHA standards, directives (instructions for compliance officers), standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards), state standards, other federal standards and national consensus standards related to oil and gas well drilling and servicing.

  • United States Oil and Gas Law - Wikipedia

    Oil and gas law in the United States is the branch of law that pertains to the acquisition and ownership rights in oil and gas both under the soil before discovery and after its capture, and adjudication regarding those rights. In the U.S., extraction of oil and gas is generally regulated by the individual states through statutes and common law. Federal and constitutional law apply as well.

Organizations Related to Oil and Gas Law

  • American Association of Petroleum Geologists

    Since its founding in 1917, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists has been a pillar of the world-wide scientific community. The original purpose of AAPG, to foster scientific research, to advance the science of geology, to promote technology, and to inspire high professional conduct, still guides the Association today.

  • American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE)

    The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) works to bring all forms of renewable energy into the mainstream of America’s economy and lifestyle. ACORE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. with paying members from every aspect and sector of the renewable energy industries and their trade associations, including wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and biofuels, hydropower tidal/current energy and waste energy. The scope of ACORE’s membership also spans – among others – financial institutions, government leaders, educators, end-users, professional service providers and allied non-profit groups.

  • American Gas Association

    The American Gas Association, founded in 1918, represents 195 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. There are more than 70 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 91 percent — more than 64 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets almost one-fourth of the United States' energy needs.

  • American Petroleum Institute (API)

    The American Petroleum Institute (API) is the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. Our more than 400 corporate members, from the largest major oil company to the smallest of independents, come from all segments of the industry. They are producers, refiners, suppliers, pipeline operators and marine transporters, as well as service and supply companies that support all segments of the industry.

  • Association of International Petroleum Negotiators

    The Association of International Petroleum Negotiators is an independent not-for-profit professional membership association that supports international energy negotiators around the world and enhances their effectiveness and professionalism in the international energy community.

  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement

    The Department of the Interior’s (DOI), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), is the federal agency responsible for overseeing the safe and environmentally responsible development of energy and mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.

  • Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies, Inc. (COPAS)

    We are the Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies, Inc. (COPAS) – a professional organization comprised of the oil and gas industry’s most knowledgeable and influential accountants.

  • Energy and Mineral Law Foundation

    The Foundation's Mission: To foster the study of energy, mineral and natural resources law through quality, cost effective and timely education, and provide a continuing forum for industry, government, attorneys, legal scholars and the general public to engage in an intellectually honest examination of the legal issues involved in energy and natural resources development.

  • Geological Society of America

    Established in 1888, The Geological Society of America provides access to elements that are essential to the professional growth of earth scientists at all levels of expertise and from all sectors: academic, government, business, and industry.

  • Geology - Mineral, Surface, Oil and Gas Rights

    "Mineral Rights" entitle a person or organization to explore and produce the rocks, minerals, oil and gas found at or below the surface of a tract of land. The owner of mineral rights can sell, lease, gift or bequest them to others individually or entirely. For example, it is possible to sell or lease rights to all mineral commodities beneath a property and retain rights to the surface. It is also possible to sell the rights to a specific rock unit (such as the Pittsburgh Coal Seam) or sell the rights to a specific mineral commodity (such as limestone).

  • Independent Petroleum Association of America

    IPAA is a national trade association headquartered in Washington, D.C. It serves as an informed voice for the exploration and production segment of the industry, and advocates its members' views before the U.S. Congress, the Administration and federal agencies. IPAA provides economic and statistical information about the domestic exploration and production industry. IPAA also develops investment symposia and other opportunities for its members.

  • International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC)

    IADC is dedicated to enhancing the interests of the oil-and-gas and geothermal drilling and completion industry worldwide. Membership is open to any company involved in oil and gas exploration, drilling or production, well servicing, oilfield manufacturing or other rig-site services. IADC’s contract-drilling members own most of the world’s land and offshore drilling units and drill the vast majority of the wells that produce the planet’s oil and gas. IADC’s membership also includes oil-and-gas producers, and manufacturers and suppliers of oilfield equipment and services.

  • National Association of Royalty Owners

    The National Association of Royalty Owners remains the only national organization promoting the rights, responsibilities and the definitions of citizens who own the natural resources in our country. Highways in the United States are lined with automobiles and trucks that drive our economy, and Americans need American oil. Yet, the picture is much larger. Natural gas, once a byproduct, has become central to the expansion of the American energy picture, and from the wellbore that produces oil now comes natural gas and a huge new demand for more energy.

  • National Petroleum Council

    The National Petroleum Council (NPC), a federally chartered and privately funded advisory committee, was established by the Secretary of the Interior in 1946 at the request of President Harry S. Truman. In 1977, the U.S. Department of Energy was established and the NPC’s functions were transferred to the new Department. The purpose of the NPC is solely to advise, inform and make recommendations to the Secretary of Energy with respect to any matter relating to oil and natural gas, or to the oil and gas industries submitted to it or approved by the Secretary.

  • Natural Gas Supply Association

    Established in 1965, NGSA encourages the use of natural gas within a balanced national energy policy, and promotes the benefits of competitive markets to ensure reliable and efficient transportation and delivery of natural gas and to increase the supply of natural gas to U.S. customers. NGSA’s members produce approximately one-third of the U.S. natural gas supply.

  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation

    The Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (RMMLF) is a collaborative educational non-profit organization dedicated to the scholarly and practical study of the law and regulations relating to mining, oil and gas, water, public lands, land use, conservation, environmental protection, and other related areas. Our governing board includes representatives from 30 law schools, 13 bar associations, and 19 mining and oil and gas associations.

  • The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA)

    NOIA’s mission is to secure reliable access and a fair regulatory and economic environment for the companies that develop the nation’s valuable offshore energy resources in an environmentally responsible manner. NOIA members include producers of oil and natural gas, renewable energy, contractors, marine engineers, service and supply companies and others with an interest in producing energy from the nation's outer continental shelf.

Publications Related to Oil and Gas Law

  • Guidance for Deepwater Drillers to Comply with Strengthened Safety and Environmental Standards

    The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) today issued additional guidance regarding the steps required of operators to resume deepwater activity. This information contains no new or additional regulatory requirements, but instead provides additional information to assist the oil and gas industry in their efforts to comply with recently-issued rules and prior guidance.

  • Oil and Gas Journal

    The Oil & Gas Journal, first published in 1902, is the world's most widely read petroleum industry publication. Each week the Journal delivers the latest international oil and gas news; analysis of issues and events; practical technology for design, operation and maintenance; and important statistics on international markets and activity. The Oil & Gas Journal is designed to meet the needs of engineers, oil management and executives throughout the oil and gas industry.

  • Oil, Gas, Energy Law Intelligence

    Oil, Gas, Energy Law Intelligence (OGEL, ISSN 1875-418X) started publishing in January 2003 and has since gained popularity with a large number of (international) energy companies, governmental organisations, law firms (mainly those with a claim to special competence in international oil, gas and energy regulation), international agencies, academic and think-tank institutions in the field of energy policy and various NGOs.

  • Texas Journal of Oil, Gas, and Energy Law

    The Texas Journal of Oil, Gas, and Energy Law (TJOGEL) is the newest serial publication at the University of Texas School of Law, and the only student-edited journal in the country focused on promoting scholarship in the energy legal field. Each issue of TJOGEL features full-length articles touching some of the most important topics facing oil and gas attorneys today, ranging from upstream drafting and interpretation of instruments to downstream transactional and regulatory issues.

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