Forced Pooling In Oklahoma

Oklahoma Oil and Gas Mineral and Royaty Owners,

Pooling is the process of combining the interests of two or more tracts in the same spacing unit. The area is called a pool, or a unit. Pooling provides benefits to the operator by combining all owners’ interests in one common pool under one drilling and spacing unit and utilizing one or more common geological formations, commonly referred to as a “common sources of supply” by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (“OCC”). The primary purpose of pooling is to develop and operate a given formation in order to recover the greatest amount of hydrocarbons that can reasonably be produced, prevent the drilling of unecessary wells, and also to achieve equity among the interest owners by permitting each owner to recover a fair share of hydrocarbons therefrom. There are several types of pooled units, but for today's discusssion only voluntary pooled units and forced pooled units will be discussed.

Owners wishing to propose a well must secure the commitment of other owners in the drilling and spacing unit.  The proposing party, at minimum, should send a well proposal to all other owners in the unit. Most drilling and spacing units for horizontal wells comprise an area of 640 acres or one section. Since Oklahoma minerals rights are often bought and sold, this could mean that there are hundreds of owners in just one section. Closing a deal or even locating all the owners is very difficult. Therefore, the proposing party must file a pooling application through the OCC in order to “force” or secure commitment from all parties. This process is called forced pooling in Oklahoma.  

The pooling application will provide notice to all of the unleased mineral owners or all lessees who will be listed as respondents on Exhibit “A” of the application. The pooling notice is mailed to all respondents having the right to drill and/or participate in the well. The notice sets a time and place for the upcoming hearing and allows any respondent to be present in order to protect his interest.

At the hearing, the landman who attempted to negotiate with all the owners in the unit, will testify under oath that proper notice was given to each of the respondents and also that a good faith effort was made to come to terms with each respondent listed on Exhibit “A”. Testimony by the landman will include the fair market value of the mineral interests in the section and the surrounding eight contiguous sections ("the nine spot"), as it relates to lease bonuses paid and royalties offered within the last year; and may include any competitive single section trades such as farmout agreements or term assignments made in the same area.

After the hearing, the judge will decide whether to issue a pooling order or not.  If a pooling order is issued, the respondent(s) will have 20 days from the issuance of the order to make an election on the options provided. A pooling order typically provides for one of the following two options:

1.  Participate in the well and pay the owners' proportionate share of costs.

2.  Select one of the options presented by the landman. There will usually be two combinations of a cash bonus per net mineral acre (nma) and a royalty. For example, one could selected $200/nma and a 1/8th royalty or $100/nma and a 3/16th royalty.

It is important to note that an owner's selection will govern his unit rights for as long as that unit is producing. There should be provisions in the pooling order to govern subsequent wells. For example, if an owner elects not to partiticpate in the intial well and instead selects the 3/16th royalty, he will not have the option to participate in subsequent wells.

This process is beneficial to the operator as the OCC causes all undecided landowners to make elections pursuant to the pooling order. Oklahoma’s forced pooling process benefits operators, working interest partners and mineral interest owners. It stimulates a competitive market for development of oil and gas, which results in revenues for investors and royalty owners.

There is no minimum ownership percentage to file to pool a section. Even an owner with a small stake in the unit can apply to pool the other owners to force the drilling of the well. This is important because it can push legacy operators out of the way who are not wanting to spend the capital to develop the newly found horizontal horizons.

Most poolings are in force for a year and if the initial well is not spud within this time frame than the order will expire as to the formations that were pooled.

Any questions? More to follow.