Crawford v. XTO Energy, Inc., No. 02-18-00217-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 11066 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth Dec. 19, 2019, pet. filed)
The Fort Worth Court of Appeals held that the “strip and gore doctrine” applied to a 1984 conveyance of 76 acres, causing the conveyance to also include a severed mineral interest underlying an adjacent 8.25-acre strip of land.
Mary Ruth Crawford owned 145.99 acres of land in Tarrant County, Texas. In 1964, she conveyed to TESCO the surface of an 8.25 acre tract of land (“Disputed Tract”). That 1964 deed contained a mineral reservation and surface waiver, reading as follows:
Grantors reserve unto themselves, [and] their heirs and assigns, the right to all oil and gas in and under the lands herein conveyed [the Disputed Tract] but expressly waive all rights of ingress and egress for the purpose of drilling for or producing oil and/or gas from the surface of the [Disputed Tract] provided that wells opened on other lands may be bottomed on [the Disputed Tract].
Subsequently, in 1984, Mary Ruth Crawford conveyed 76 acres of land to the north and south of the Disputed Tract, without any mention of the 8.25 acre tract or the mineral reservation. In 2007, Crawford executed an oil and gas lease covering the Disputed Tract. XTO pooled the interest in a unit and drilled and completed four wells. The Court held that the strip-and-gore doctrine applied in this case, causing the 1984 deed to include the Disputed Tract in the conveyance.
The Court focused its analysis on the requirement that the narrow strip of land must have ceased to be of any benefit or importance to the grantor at the time of the deed. The Court reasoned that the Disputed Tract was of no practical benefit to Crawford in 1984 because the 1964 deed had already waived Crawford’s surface rights to the Disputed Tract. As the Court explained, prior to the advent of horizontal drilling in around 2002, minerals were “wholly worthless” if the mineral owner could not obtain surface access. The Court also explained in a footnote that “there is no evidence that pooling with other mineral interest owners was a possibility in 1984.”
Crawford argued that the surface waiver in the 1964 deed was conditional. The Court acknowledged that “provided that” clauses can sometimes be interpreted as a condition or the “functional equivalent of ‘if.’” However, the Court rejected Crawford’s argument, explaining that in context of the remainder of the deed made, the parties’ intent was clear that the “provided that” clause was intended to reinforce the waiver, describing that the only means of physical intrusion would be by slant drilling that would not invade the surface estate.
This case was the subject of previous appeals through to the Texas Supreme Court on procedural grounds. See Crawford v. XTO Energy, Inc., 509 S.W.3d 906 (Tex. 2017). Additionally, a petition for review has been filed in the case, and the Court has requested a response.