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July 11, 2005


James Dean, movie Giant.

OK, the City owns the land, but who owns the mineral rights? It's always bothered me that I can own my land but not the minerals underneath.

Actually, just several years ago a horizontal well [gas] was drilled from outside the city limits into and under the city. The rumor, or maybe the joke, was that the target zone was under the old K-Mart Store. You have an interesting concept, but the Doc is correct, you'd have to check the mineral interest ownership maps.

GruntDoc, regarding the movie, you are correct sir.

Both Wallace and GruntDoc have raised the question of who owns the mineral rights. I focused on city parks because of the impracticality of drilling on residential property, although the more I think about it, an oil well in my own back yard might have it's benefits.

My premise is based on the theory that the city owns the mineral rights under the parks, but this might apply only to the older sections of town.

There was a time when it just didn't occur to people to reserve mineral rights, particularly in subdivided city land. But, it probably happened much more frequently as the city grew onto ranch land under which oil had already been discovered.

So yes, if the city doesn't own any of the park minerals then whoever does own them would be the ones who should be interested in drilling. The city code would have to be amended in order to allow drilling in the city limits. So there's the possibility that city council could require an assignment of an expense free interest in petroleum production in return for code amendment. Then there's the possibility of a novel extension of Kelo vs. City of New London. (Best hurry on that last one.)

But first, is there oil down there or not? Before anyone starts the arduous task of digging through the county deed records they should first look at the old well records, logs and any available seismic data to determine whether and where it would be worth the effort.

The pumpjack doesn't take up much room, but a tank battery might also be needed to store the oil prior to being trucked away, so more than double the size of the area.

The other consideration for having a pumpjack in a city park is drilling the well. Typical drilling locations require 2-4 acres of land for the rig and associated equipment. How many city parks could accommodate that large of an area being disrupted (flattened and graveled)? Maybe Beal Park, but I can't think of another. A horizontal well can tap a reservoir thousands of feet away from the rig, but the pumpjack goes where the rig once stood.

Greg, those are some things I had not considered. Perhaps a horizontal well from some less populated area might be the best option considering the area limitations in town.

I had always thought of horizontal drilling as a variation of slant hole drilling. But, the images resulting from a Google search suggest that the drill stem actually makes a right angle. Fascinating. And expensive, too, I would imagine.

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