In 1916 Congress passed a public lands act containing a general reservation of valuable minerals in the lands, reserving “all the coal and other minerals in the lands” in all lands patented under the Act. And Colorado, like most other western states, recognizes separate ownership of the Surface Estate and the Mineral Estate and the distinct private property rights associated with each.
Often, different parties own the surface and the subsurface, commonly referred to as Severed or Split Estate lands. The different ownership may have been created through the reservation of the minerals to the government when the lands were originally patented, or may result from a decision by a previous landowner to separately sell or lease the subsurface mineral interest.
Because each party has rights associated with the ownership of their respective estate, individual as well as oil and gas companies that have purchased or leased mineral rights are entitled to exercise their property rights to develop the resource.
Colorado law recognizes that access to the mineral estate from the surface estate is necessary in order to develop the mineral interest. The law provides for access to the mineral estate by allowing subsurface owners “reasonable use” of the surface estate. Surface and mineral interests are created or transferred through private party contracts, including deeds and leases.
In most areas of the West, including our area of Las Animas and Huerfano Counties, real estate properties may or may not have minerals included with the purchase of the property. For the most part minerals have been either sold, leased or retained by previous owners and are not passed with the purchase of the property. This is called a Split-Estate where the Surface Rights are sold separately from the Mineral Rights.
Since the late 1990′s, Oil and Gas Companies have been drilling for Coal Bed Methane or Natural Gas in many areas of Las Animas and Huerfano counties. As a result real estate agents, like ourselves, have had to get educated concerning the potential effects for property owners.
Adobe Gold Properties is a company that provides full disclosure to our customers and deal with the facts such as these straight up and honest so as to help you make the best decision for your family and your future.
If we can’t answer your questions concerning the Methane Gas Well drilling in this area, we will try to find out for you. But most of all we will encourage you to contact the gas companies directly and or do research to find the answers that you need to make your decision. Most likely you will not find this information on other local real estate web sites as it is a hard subject to discuss before you see how beautiful our properties really are. And the good news is that many people are not concerned with the gas well drilling but this is a personal preference. And the gas companies have helped our area in many ways including better roads and road maintenance as well as being one of the largest employers in the area. The taxes from coal bed methane drilling have made a large inpact on our local county governments revenues also.
Frequently Asked Questions:
If I don’t own the minerals with my property can a gas company come onto my property and drill a gas well?
Answer:Yes they can if they have the minerals leased. The well spacing is regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and currently well placement is 5-6 wells per section. A section is approximately 640 acres or 1 square mile. Currently the gas companies like to place their wells about 2000 feet apart but this could change. Mineral owners feel that they have just as much right to their minerals as you do to the surface just as you might if you owned the minerals.
How much space do they use for a well site?
Answer: approximately 150-200 feet by 200 feet. In this area there are two coal basins with one being the Raton Basin and the other the Vermejo Basin. They run at different depths with one above the other in some cases to depths of about 2000-2500 feet. In some areas the gas companies will put two wells on a well pad to access each coal bed. The fact that they drill both on the same well site is good news and better than having a well in another location on your property.
This is a well site with only one well drilled to one of the two formations. In most cases there will be another well just like this on the same site or well pad.
What are the Gas Wells and why are they drilling them?
Answer: This area has long been known for its coal production but coal mining was shut down in the early part of the 1900′s. Methane Gas is a natural by product of Coal as it decomposes. The gas companies are able to drill a well into these coal veins and extract the gas from them then compress this gas and transport it in pipelines for use in our homes and businesses as Natural Gas. President Bush has created incentives for coal bed methane so that our country will become more energy independent.
How long will the Coal Bed Methane Gas Wells be in Las Animas County?
Answer: They tell us the life of a gas well is about 20 years. But if you look at the facts 20 years ago they didn’t have this technology or at least it wasn’t used much until recently so in 20 years new technology could emerge. So we expect the gas wells to be here for a long time. The only thing that could affect this gas production is if its not profitable to continue doing so, right?
Will the gas companies pay for surface damages?
Answer: Yes most do pay at least a one time fee of $2500 to the surface owner at time of drilling and this is paid for each well. Property owners can also get paid for any pipelines that may run along or across their property too.
Are the gas wells noisy?
Answer: They could be depending on the life cycle of the well. When wells are first installed and there is no power poles close by and or if they are not hooked up to the power, then they use methane powered motors to run the pumps to remove the water from the coal beds so that the methane gas will escape. After such time as the coal beds are dewatered then they no longer need the motors or pumps. They tell us this dewatering could happen in a few months or years depending on the well. Most of the time we have seen the gas companies hooking into the power grid and trying to be good neighbors but every situation is different.
What do they do with the water from the coal beds?
Answer: It depends on the quality of the water. In many cases they put it in to a surface pond to evaporate or soak into the ground. If the water is of a quality that meets Federal standards the EPA will allow them to leave it on the surface or put into a surface creek or runoff. If there are too many totally disolved solids, too alkaline, too saline etc then they have to dispose of the water in other methods such as in deep injection wells. If this is the case they will remove the water from the well site on the property in water trucks. Many owners are interested in making arrangements to secure the water for water livestock or for surface ponds but the quality of the water will determine if they can do this.
After the well is drilled how often do they check on it or access it?
Answer: For the most part they check the wells once or twice a day unless they need to do service or repairs to it. Occasionally they will have to rework or frac the well in order to help it produce better but for the most part activity is minimal after the well is producing.
Are the wells or pipelines dangerous?
Answer: To date there haven’t been any known problems in this area that we are aware of but research could most likely indicate that problems could arise such as gas leaks from the pipelines or in an extreme case an explosion or fire. But aren’t these the same concerns that you might have in any city that has natural gas piped to each home?
This is a pipeline that comes above the surface and from what I understand this is called a P.I.G. launching station. P.I.G. stands for Pipe Inpection Gadget I think and it is an variety of instruments that clean and inspect the pipelines for damages and corrosion. You will see these in numerous places around in the county.
How close can I build to a gas well or how close can they build to my home?
Answer: From what we understand the setbacks are about 150 feet from a home, water well or structure.
What areas of Las Animas County will have Gas Wells?
Answer: Any property located west of Interstate 25 in Las Animas County is subject to potential Gas Well Drilling, as well as some properties east of the Interstate. The BLM created group unit areas named the Sangre de Cristo, Cottontail Pass and the Spanish Peaks and leased the minerals for this type of gas exploration and production.
Are there any ranches in this area that won’t be affected by gas well drilling?
Answer: Yes there could be one that we know of and that is the Santa Fe Trail Ranch. Presently the property owners and the Property Owners Association own and/or control their mineral rights on this ranch. Drilling could happen on this ranch if 60% or more of the property owners voted to allow drilling or unless something changes with the rules of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. So to say that there will never be drilling on this ranch is not practical but the likely hood of it happening is lower than most area ranches. This ranch is also installing a central water system with City supplied water from Trinidad making it a great ranch to consider. Also many Silver Spurs Ranch properties have their minerals and some owners will be willing to sell their minerals with their properties. Also there are some other ranches and properties that the owners own a portion of their minerals and are at least willing to pass these to the new owners. Contact us for details.
If you would like to learn more about Mineral Rights check out the information and links below.
Colorado Oil and Gas Commission Is the organization responsible for Oil and Gas development in Colorado. Their phone number is (303) 894-2100.
Pioneer Natural Resources is one of the major Gas Companies in Las Animas County. Their Phone number in Denver is (303) 298-8100.
Petrogulf Corporation is another of our local Oil and Gas Companies and their phone number is (303) 893-5400.
Oil & Gas Accountability Project Is a wonderful group of hard working concerned people that work with local communities throughout the Rocky Mountain West and across the country to reduce the social, economic and environmental problems caused by oil and gas development. Get the free information booklet “A Landowner’s Guide to Oil and Gas Development“. It’s a 3mb file, so be prepared if you have a slow connection.
BLM GeoCommunicator A joint project between the BLM and the US Forest Service in partnership with States, Counties and Private Industry. A set of online tools for collection, management, and sharing of land survey data and land record information including Land and Mineral Use Leases, Federal Land Stewardship and Land Survey Information. This is a wealth of information if you like this kind of data.
Do you have other questions concerning minerals or coal bed methane in regards to properties in this area? If so please let us know and we will do our best to answer your questions or point your in the right direction.
We hope that this information has been helpful to you and that it shows our deep seated commitment to helping you in your land search in a professional straight forward honest manner.
We have been the only Real Estate Company in this area, that we know of, to openly discuss this issue on their web page up to now but we hope that changes. We feel if you have the facts you can make a good decision in your land purchase for you and your family!