Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What Is Reasonable Term (Length) Of Oil & Gas Lease?

Mineral owners should be aware of how long some oil/gas companies will tie up your minerals via the terms of their lease. The lease primary term is the length of time the lease is in effect during which drilling operations must commence or one of three things will happen...

  1. The Lessee does commence drilling during the primary term and finishes the well. The Lessor would then collect royalties once production begins.
  2. The lease contract might have an option to renew for an additional period, extending the primary term.
  3. The lease will expire.

If your Lessee does drill and hits, the lease will be "held by production" -- "HBP." Hopefully, the Lessee will develop the remainder of your drilling unit in timely fashion. Unless you own minerals under a lot of land, you will not have any control over that. If you do own a lot of contiguous minerals (such as a farm or ranch), you might be able to negotiate continuous drilling operations provisions, which can ensure that additional wells are drilled within a certain time frame.

In most parts of the USA where there is active drilling, it is common to have the oil company offer to lease your land for a primary term of five years. Or maybe three years, plus an option for 2-3 years beyond that. So, the effect is a 5-6 year lease. You always prefer it to be as short a term as possible, but in most cases, five years is reasonable.

However, I have seen some leases where the Lessee is offering to lease for five years, plus a 5-year extension option. THIS IS TOO LONG -- DO NOT SIGN! Ten years is just too long to have your properties tied up.

If you ever get into a position to where you wish to sell mineral rights on your properties, an effective 10-year primary term is going to be very large negative. A mineral buyer is not going to like a 10-year term... that's a long time the Lessee can just sit there and do nothing. And if you never wish to sell mineral rights and just wait it out, ten years is a long time! If you sign that lease, the Lessee has the right to wait until over nine years has passed by before they even start planning to drill you a well. So, don't do it. Negotiate for a 5-year primary term only, with no option to extend.

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