OBO, Inc. v. Apache Corp., 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 8392,
(Tex.Civ.App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2018, no pet.)
Parties to a joint operating agreement sometimes elect to have a non-owner serve as the operator. For example, interest owners may determine that they are unwilling or unable to perform the operator duties under the operating agreement, and will instead elect hire an unaffiliated contract operator. However, placing a non-owner in the position of operator is problematic for a number of reasons. For example, most model form operating agreements either directly or indirectly indicate that ownership is a condition precedent to serving as operator. Moreover, numerous obligations, protections, and other provisions of model form operating agreements may become confusing, unworkable, or even meaningless when applied to a non-owning operator.
Some of those issues are illustrated by the recent case OBO, Inc. v. Apache, involving the American Petroleum Institute’s Model Form Unit Agreement and Model Form Unit Operating Agreement. In that case, the Houston 14th District Court of Appeals was faced with determining whether an elected Unit Operator is permitted to delegate operatorship duties to a contract operator, and whether that contract operator can be liable to nonoperators for breach of any duties imposed on the operator under that Unit Operating Agreement.