Severabilility of Mineral Rights

Mineral estates are sometimes severed from the surface estate.

Such severance is accomplished with a conveyance or reservation of these rights. This conveyance or reservation includes minerals or substances considered minerals. Although technically not minerals, which are naturally occurring crystalline “solids,” legal regimes typically include hydrocarbon resources such as oil and natural gas under the term “mineral rights.” Such a conveyance or reservation includes royalties, bonuses and rentals. In the absence of such a conveyance, the surface owner retains the rights.

As the oil and gas industry moves into drilling for Marcellus and Utica Shale, property owners are scrambling to find out about the status of the mineral rights on their property.

This can make things complicated in certain states,  take West Virginia for example:

According to available statistics, there are 2,423 mineral rights that are owned in Wood County. This does not include leases. The wells are considered real estate. The numbers do not include mineral rights that are under lease, only cases where individuals or oil and gas companies or others own the mineral rights, but not the surface land.

The total for the state is 352,247 owned mineral rights.

The highest number of mineral accounts is in:

  • Roane County:26,344
  • Wirt County lists:4,446
  • Ritchie has: 16,493

Mineral rights can be very complicated, it may have been left to a lot of heirs, someone might only own 1/100th of it. Your deed may even state the rights have been reserved prior to the property being purchased so you could buy a piece of property and not have purchased the mineral rights with it. Tax tickets are issued for leased or in-production wells. It can get even more complicated, because the lease may only be for the Marcellus or Utica Shale, or the shallow layers. Potentially there could be several people or companies leasing different layers on one site. If heirs inherit mineral rights, they are notified and should receive a tax ticket for their share. If the taxes become delinquent, the rights, or share thereof, are sold at the delinquent tax sale.

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