“Gathering” pipelines start at the wellhead and join with other gathering pipelines to become bigger gathering pipeline that go to treatment facilities and eventually end up connecting to “transmission” lines that take the gas to market. The drillers do not have the right to “condemn” or use “eminent domain” for gathering lines. They do have some rights to do that for interstate transmission lines, but that is rare and beyond the scope of what will be talked about here.
Because drillers cannot condemn gathering liens, they have to get them in three other ways:
First, they have the right to cross the surface of any property that lies above their mineral tract in order to produce gas from a well on that mineral tract. Often the surface gets divided up into smaller tracts after the ownership of the minerals was severed from the surface or after the minerals were leased. Even if a a well is not on one of those smaller tracts, the drillers still have a right to put a pipeline across it if the smaller surface tract was part of the larger mineral tract at the time of the severance or lease– unfortunately. However, they can only use this first method for gas from wells that are on the mineral tract in question and not any neighboring tracts. (One scam is for a promoter to buy up a bunch of small mineral rights, and then sign one big lease for all of them. That does not give the driller the right to cross the surface of all of them because they were severed separately, not part of one severance.)
Second, if the lease to the driller was signed by a person who owned the surface (and the minerals) at the time the lease was signed, then lease will often provide that the driller can use the surface of the tract for pipelines from gas wells on other tracts.
Third, if they have no rights by using the first or second methods, they will come to the surface owners to get a pipeline right of way. See “What Land/Surface Owners Should Know When a Landman Shows Up And Wants an Easement/Right of Way To Put a Pipeline Across Your Land.” (updated 8/27/2014)
Because of the new drilling, the existing gathering pipeline infrastructure is reaching capacity and new pipelines are being laid. So more and more people are being approached by drillers who want to use the third method to get across the surface.
We are therefore starting this page of information. We hope to expand it later. If you have resources that you believe will be helpful, please send us an e-mail.