Author: Austin Brister

Austin assists clients in all aspects of mergers, acquisitions and divestitures of energy properties, from the first letter of intent through negotiations, closing and post-closing matters. He has assisted clients in a variety of deals including farmouts, purchase and sale transactions, joint exploration and development agreements, participation agreements, and more routine operational transactions such as joint operating agreements and master services agreements.
25Jan

Texas Court Holds that Permit of Injection Well May be Challenged Outside Railroad Commission and Travis County Via Injunctive Relief

Brief Overview: What You Need to Know

On January 18, 2017, in Ring Energy v. Trey Resources, Inc.,[1] Ring Energy v. Trey Resources, Inc., 2017 WL 192911(Tex. App.—El Paso January 18, 2017, no pet. h.).  the El Paso Court of Appeals, in a case of first impression, addressed whether a trial court outside of Travis County (where the Texas Railroad Commission (the “RRC”) is based) has jurisdiction to issue an injunction prohibiting a party with a valid RRC injection well permit from operating its injection well based on a complaining party’s claim that the injection would cause imminent and irreparable “waste,” even though the complaining party (1) had not yet sustained any actual injury, (2) did not oppose the permit prior to issuance, and (3) did not take advantage any other administrative remedy that might have been available. Read More »

Footnotes   [ + ]

18Jan

Denbury v. Texas Rice: Clarifying the Test for Common Carrier Status, Power of Eminent Domain

On Friday, January 6, 2017, the Texas Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Denbury Green Pipeline–Texas, LLC v. Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. (“Texas Rice II”), [1]15-0225, 2017 WL 65470 (Tex. Jan. 6, 2017). holding that:

  1. Denbury’s evidence of a post-construction transportation agreement with an unaffiliated customer was relevant to the “reasonable probability test,”
  2. rejecting a rule that the requisite intent must exist at the time the pipeline was contemplated,
  3. rejecting the appellate court’s “substantial public interest” test, and
  4. holding that Denbury had “conclusively” established its qualification as a common carrier with the power of eminent domain.

The opinion provides clarity as to the test previously set forth in Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline–Texas, LLC (“Texas Rice I”), [2]363 S.W.3d 192, 202 (Tex. 2012). and the types of evidence relevant to that determination.

Read More »

Footnotes   [ + ]

19May

BREAKING: ConocoPhillips v. Koopmann

The Corpus Christi Court of Appeals released its Memorandum Opinion today in ConocoPhillips Company v. Koopman, 13-14-00402-CV. The case involved a deed which reserved a term NPRI for a period of fifteen years, or until December 27, 2011 and for “as long thereafter as there is production [of oil, gas, or minerals from the land] in paying quantities.”

The deed also included a savings clause that provided as follows:

[I]f any oil, gas, or mineral or mining lease covering [the Koopmanns’ land] is maintained in force and effect by payment of shut-in royalties or any other similar payments made to [the Koopmanns] in lieu of actual production while there is located on [the Koopmanns’ land] a well or mine capable of producing oil, gas, or other minerals in paying or commercial quantities but shut-in for lack of market or any other reason, then for purposes of determining [whether Strieber’s NPRI continues beyond December 27, 2011,] it will be considered that production in paying or commercial quantities is being obtained from the [Koopmanns’ land]. (emphasis supplied)

The lessee and NPRI owner claimed that these conditions were met and that a $24,000 lease extension fee constituted a “similar payment” to a shut-in royalty. The lessor burdened by the NPRI disagreed and suit was filed.  Among the issues addressed are:

  1. Whether a lease extension fee made under a paid-up lease constituted a payment that was “similar” to a shut-in royalty within the context of a savings clause contained within a deed reserving a term NPRI.
  2. Whether the term NPRI involved in that case created a future interest in violation of the rule against perpetuities.

Stay tuned over the next few days. We will be working through this case to provide our subscribers with a summary of the court’s holding…

13Jan

Texas: Statutory Subordination of Mortgages

Texas House Bill 2207, effective January 1, 2016, statutorily subordinates certain real estate mortgages to oil and gas leases, introducing an interesting tweak to the long-standing and well-established “first in time, first in right” rule. However, this statute is not without its limitations.  For example, it only applies to foreclosure sales for which the foreclosure notice occurs or the judicial foreclosure action commences on or after January 1, 2016.  Additionally, the statute goes on to clarify that, although the lease is to survive the foreclosure, the right to use the surface estate may be terminated and extinguished by the foreclosure to the extent the security interest had priority over the lessee.

Read More »

28Sep

Forecasting a Rise in Lease Termination and Royalty Litigation Amidst Prolonged Oil Slump

Originally appearing in the Energy Expert Analysis Section of Law360.

law 360 logoLaw360, New York (September 25, 2015) — Over the last five years, American shale production has more than tripled. Since last October, however, the oil and gas industry has trudged through a long and pronounced slump in crude oil prices in what has been termed the “Oil Bust of 2015.” Oil prices dropped below $40 a barrel last month for the first time in over six years, and major relief from this slump may be distant as EIA recently announced that it expects crude to average $59 per barrel in 2016.

This low-price environment has been unfavorable for most royalty owners, as low oil prices generally lead to proportionately low royalty payments. It has also lead to a slow-down in additional drilling and development activity as many oil and gas companies slashed budgets for 2015 and 2016. Drilling contractors have stored hundreds of rigs, and oil and gas companies have drastically reduced their workforces. A strong indicator of this slow-down can be found in the Texas Railroad Commission drilling statistics, showing 964 permits issued last month in Texas, compared with 2,440 in August of 2014. Read More »

25Sep
N.D. SUPREME COURT ON DUTY OWED BY FIELD LANDMEN AND COMPENSATION FOR LEASE ACQUISITION

N.D. SUPREME COURT ON DUTY OWED BY FIELD LANDMEN AND COMPENSATION FOR LEASE ACQUISITION

On September 21, 2015, the North Dakota Supreme Court issued its opinion in Border Res., LLC v. Irish Oil & Gas, Inc., — N.W.2d —-, 2015 WL 5519421, 2015 ND 238 (N.D. 2015), where it reviewed two primary issues:

(1) whether a field land services company owed a fiduciary duty to an oil and gas company, and whether such duty was breached, when the land services company acquired leases within the “review area” and did not offer those leases to the oil and gas company, and

(2) whether the price to be paid to the land services company for other leases sold by the oil and gas company in a package transaction was the “blended price” of the overall transaction, or an allocated value of the specific leases acquired by the land services company.

This case is likely of interest to in-house and field landmen, as it provides additional guidance as to the nature and scope of the relationship between an oil and gas company and field landmen.  Additionally, it provides insight into the extent the AAPL standards of ethics and conduct bind landmen, and the importance of clearly addressing parties’ relationship and payment structure in service agreements.

Read More »

13Sep

Texas Supreme Court to Determine Whether Accommodation Doctrine Applies to Severed Groundwater Estate

The Texas Supreme Court recently granted Coyote Lake Ranch’s petition to review an opinion by the Amarillo Court of Appeals in Lubbock v. Coyote Lake Ranch, holding that the “Accommodation Doctrine” does not apply to the relationship between a surface owner and the owner of a severed groundwater estate.  In the context of a severed mineral estate, the Accommodation Doctrine requires that the owner of a severed mineral estate accommodate pre-existing surface uses in certain circumstances.

By granting Coyote Lake Ranch’s petition to review, the Texas Supreme Court will have the opportunity to address whether this doctrine also applies to a severed groundwater estate.  The decision in this case could potentially answer an important question regarding conflicts between groundwater production activities and existing surface uses.  With the oil and gas industry dealing with sub-$50 oil prices, and the public’s increasing awareness of the importance of water, the Supreme Court’s holding in this case will have significant implications to the development of groundwater in Texas.  As Texas A&M University School of Law professor Gabriel Eckstein told Law 360, this case “has big implications, some of which we can’t even imagine yet.”

Read More »

26Aug

Schlumberger to Buy Cameron – What does this Mean for A&D?

The world’s largest oilfield service company, Schlumberger Ltd., and one of the largest providers of oilfield equipment, Cameron International Corp., announced today in a joint press release that the parties have executed an Agreement and Plan of Merger under which Schlumberger will buy Cameron in an all-stock deal valued at $14.8 billion.

The parties held a teleconference this morning, as announced in their 8K filing. Under the Merger Agreement, Schlumberger Holdings will acquire Cameron in a transaction in which Rain Merger Sub LLC, a Delaware limited liability company and a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of Schlumberger Holdings, will merge with and into Cameron, with Cameron as the surviving entity, and with Schlumberger Holdings acquiring all of the stock of Cameron. Read More »

5Aug

Case Law Update: ConocoPhillips Must Release 15K Acres

Texas Case Law Update: On August 5, 2015, the San Antonio Court of Appeals released its opinion in ConocoPhillips Company v. Vaquillas Unproven Minerals, Ltd., [1] No. 04-15-00066-CV (San Antonio – August 5, 2015).  affirming the trial court’s order declaring ConocoPhillips breached two oil and gas leases in Webb County by failing to release all acreage in excess of 40 acres for each producing and shut-in natural gas well capable of producing in paying quantities. As a result, ConocoPhillips was ordered to release an additional 15,351 acres. The issue on appeal was whether the retained acreage clauses allowed ConocoPhillips to retain 40 acres per gas well or 640 acres per gas well.

This case illustrates how appellate courts can interpret acreage perpetuation and release language in a lease in conjunction with regulatory rules. As such, this case underscores the importance of lease language that references regulatory rules, which may provide for spacing or proration units of a greater or smaller size than the default acreage provided within the lease.

Read More »

Footnotes   [ + ]

3Aug

Anderson v. Dominion – JOA AMI, Pref Right, Contract Area and Term

In Anderson Energy Corp. v. Dominion Oklahoma Texas Exploration & Prod., Inc., [1] 04-14-00170-CV, 2015 WL 3956212 (Tex. App.—San Antonio June 30, 2015, no. pet. h.) the San Antonio Court of Appeals answered the following questions involving a 1977 AAPL JOA, with a printed Pref Right, and a typewritten AMI:

  1. Whether the  AMI and Pref Right clauses covered interests acquired after execution of the JOA, based largely on the extent of the “Contract Area;”
  2. The Term of the JOA where the parties failed to select one of the printed options;
  3. Whether the above claims were precluded by the Statute of Frauds; and
  4. Whether the affirmative defenses of waiver or laches precluded the plaintiff’s claims described above.

Read More »

Footnotes   [ + ]

© Copyright 2014, Austin W. Brister. All Rights Reserved. DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is for general information purposes only. This article should not be substituted for legal advice and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or reading this article does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You are encouraged to contact an attorney for legal advice concerning the information provided in this article.
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We keep clients and subscribers updated on case law alerts and insightful articles. Join more than 2,000+ in-house attorneys and landmen who receive our occasional alerts and summaries. All for free!