On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision that appeared to make the “rule of capture” inapplicable to oil and gas wells subjected to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Briggs v. Sw. Energy Production Co., No. 63 MAP 2018 (Pa. Jan. 22, 2020) (see majority opinion; see concurring and dissenting opinion). However, the court has left open whether a well owner whose hydraulic fracturing fluids or proppants migrate under a property line, and perhaps even a well owner whose fracture traces extend across that line, has committed a trespass. Those issues are remanded, and their resolution remains uncertain.
Oil and gas (or, for that matter, any fluids) migrate into a well bore from the surrounding rock. If the well drains a conventional reservoir, the hydrocarbons may have originated at the other end of the reservoir under a different property. A well on one property can drain hydrocarbons originally located under another. Recall the “I drink your milkshake” scene from There Will Be Blood (Paramount 2007).
Continue Reading Rule of Capture is Back for Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Wells . . . Sort Of