Horizontal Drilling of Crude Oil: A Challenge to the Norms of Property Rights
International Law Research; Vol. 6, No. 1, 2017
7 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2017
Date Written: July 6, 2017
Two altitudinal relationships propel current crude oil exploration jurisprudence and litigation namely: Surface land ownership and sub-surface rights (including mineral ownership). In the United States, the conflicts between the surface and mineral owners has theatrically increased in the last decade. Elsewhere, notably Nigeria, conflicts over land rights and the ownership of sub-surface minerals is yet to be fully resolved. Our goal herein is to explore the interaction between the law of property and the tort of trespass as applicable to the surface and subsurface exploration and extraction of crude oil and natural gas with specific focus on the scientific advances in horizontal drilling techniques widely used by the oil corporations in the various oil reservoirs across the world. Horizontal drilling is described in this paper, as the exercise of drilling for liquid and gaseous mineral resources by other means other than sinking vertical wells. We argue that, horizontal drilling is one of the easiest means by which governments could lawfully capture crude oil and gas from reservoirs of neighbouring nations to the extent that joint development agreement becomes unnecessary. Also, we opined that nations such as Nigeria could easily resolve issues of resources allocation by reducing the spread of surface wells. This could be achieved through the establishment of very few centralised drilling sites where slant or horizontal drilling can tap into various reservoirs thereby, eliminating the contestation of local agitators.
Keywords: Drilling, Crude Oil, Property Rights, Trespass, Nigeria
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