Before Drilling

Before you can begin drilling for hydrocarbons, there are a couple of issues that need to be resolved. For example, where will the drill rig be placed? On whose land? Do you have permission? Do you own the mineral rights to remove the hydrocarbons once they are discovered? Have you obtained the proper permits from a myriad of governmental agencies? How do you know that oil and gas are present beneath the drill rig? There are a number of considerations before the drill rig begins operations. These activities generally fall into the broad categories of mapping, leasing, and permitting.


Mapping deals with land surface determinations and measurements. It is the methodology by which we describe where things are located. In a world where individual property ownership is practiced, such a description has legal application. A legal description for a parcel of land is analogous to what a street number and street name, city, state, and zip code are to a mail carrier. The legal description gives surveyors and property owners a mechanism by which to precisely locate tracts of real estate. It also allows property to be transferred, leased, and mortgaged.

An accurate surface map facilitates determining land ownership above the hydrocarbons and who owns the minerals beneath the surface; seldom are the mineral and surface owners the same.


The concept is simple, but most people do not understand what the system is or how it works. But it is utilized to establish well locations, to determine land ownership, to assign mineral rights, and to accurately plot property lines and boundaries. Drill rigs are very large pieces of equipment. When combined with the support equipment, supplies, work force, and access roads, the total area needed for a drilling operation can easily exceed 40 acres in size.

Drilling and production companies must know ownership before they can proceed with their plans. Permission to conduct operations must be obtained from both parties. This job is usually that of a Landman, a person whose job it is to seek out the owners of both estates and negotiate leases and contract with them on behalf of the production company for the right to drill and withdraw the hydrocarbons.


Each state and county has a regulatory body that oversees petroleum operations.  The regulatory body requires a number of permits for such things as drilling on public land, off shore (within the three-mile limit), and along the coastline.  In Texas, the governmental agency responsible is the Texas Railroad Commission.  It regulates location and construction of prospect wells, requirements for fresh water protection in vicinity or drilling, formation drainage allocation, and well to well spacing requirements.