Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 45.2. Mines, Minerals, and Energy
Chapter 16. Virginia Gas and Oil Act

§ 45.2-1620. Pooling of interests in drilling units.

A. The Board, upon application from any gas or oil owner, shall enter an order pooling all interests in a drilling unit for the development and operation thereof when:

1. Two or more separately owned tracts are embraced in a drilling unit;

2. There are separately owned interests in all or part of any such drilling unit and those owners having interests have not agreed to pool their interests; or

3. There are separately owned tracts embraced within the minimum statewide spacing requirements prescribed in § 45.2-1616.

However, no pooling order shall be entered until the notice and hearing requirements of this article have been satisfied.

B. Subject to any contrary provision contained in a gas or oil lease regarding the property, gas or oil operations incident to the drilling of a well on any portion of a unit covered by a pooling order shall be deemed to be the conduct of such operations on each tract in the unit. The portion of production allocated to any tract covered by a pooling order shall be in the same proportion as the acreage of that tract bears to the total acreage of the unit.

C. Every pooling order entered by the Board pursuant to the provisions of this section shall:

1. Authorize the drilling and operation of a well, including the stimulation of all coal seams in the case of a coalbed methane well when authorized pursuant to clause (iii) of subdivision F 2 b of § 45.2-1631, subject to the permit provisions contained in Article 3 (§ 45.2-1629 et seq.);

2. Include the time and date when such order expires;

3. Designate the gas or oil owner who is authorized to drill and operate the well. Except in the case of a coalbed methane gas well, such designated operator shall possess the right to conduct operations or possess the written consent of owners with the right to conduct operations on at least 25 percent of the acreage included in the unit;

4. Prescribe the conditions under which a gas or oil owner may become a participating operator or exercise a right of election under subdivision 7;

5. Establish the sharing of all reasonable costs, including a reasonable supervision fee, between participating operators so that each participating operator pays the same percentage of such costs as his acreage bears to the total unit acreage;

6. Require that any nonleasing gas or oil owner be provided with reasonable access to unit records submitted to the Director or Inspector;

7. Establish a procedure for a gas or oil owner who received notice of the hearing but does not decide to become a participating operator to elect to (i) sell or lease his gas or oil ownership to a participating operator, (ii) enter into a voluntary agreement to share in the operation of the well at a rate of payment mutually agreed to by the gas or oil owner and the gas or oil operator authorized to drill the well, or (iii) share in the operation of the well as a nonparticipating operator on a carried basis after the proceeds allocable to his share equal the following:

a. In the case of a leased tract, 300 percent of the share of such costs allocable to his interest; or

b. In the case of an unleased tract, 200 percent of the share of such costs allocable to his interest.

D. Any gas or oil owner whose identity and location remain unknown at the conclusion of a hearing concerning the establishment of a pooling order for which public notice was given shall be deemed to have elected to lease his interest to the gas or oil operator at a rate to be established by the Board. The Board shall cause to be established an escrow account into which the unknown lessor's share of proceeds shall be paid and held for his benefit. Such escrowed proceeds shall be deemed to be unclaimed property and shall be disposed of pursuant to the provisions of the Virginia Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act (§ 55.1-2500 et seq.). Upon discovery of the identity and location of any unknown owner of an interest that is subject to escrow under the provisions of this subsection and is not subject to conflicting claims of ownership, the designated operator shall, within 30 days, file with the Board a petition for disbursement of funds to be considered at the next available hearing. The petition shall include a detailed accounting of all funds deposited in escrow that are subject to the proposed disbursement.

E. Any person who does not make an election under the pooling order shall be deemed to have leased his gas or oil interest to the gas or oil well operator as the pooling order provides.

F. If a gas or oil owner is a person under a disability, the applicant for a pooling order may petition the appropriate circuit court to appoint a guardian ad litem pursuant to the provisions of § 8.01-261 for purposes of making the election provided for by this section.

G. Any royalty or overriding royalty reserved in any lease that is deducted from a nonparticipating operator's share of production shall not be subject to charges for operating costs but shall be separately calculated and paid to the royalty owner.

H. The Board shall resolve all disputes arising among gas or oil operators regarding the amount and reasonableness of well operation costs. The Board shall, by regulation, establish allowable types of costs that may be shared in pooled gas or oil operations.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-302; 1987, c. 452; 1989, c. 529; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.21; 1995, c. 269; 1996, c. 854; 2006, c. 498; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.