When drilling for oil, there are many factors to consider. One of the most important involves the land on which drilling is being conducted. For some people, finding oil on another person’s land brings forth a question of gaining permission to drill on the property. However, gaining that permission takes more than simply knocking on someone’s door and asking to set up an oil well on their land.

Mineral Rights

Many people automatically assume that when they own property, they also own the mineral rights that go along with it. However, that’s not always true. Known as a “split estate,” this means the mineral rights may not be owned by the surface land owner. The first step to gain permission is to conduct a mineral title study to determine who has ownership of the oil beneath the surface.

Non-ownership Theory

In some states, the principle of non-ownership theory applies to extracting oil from a piece of land. Under this provision, any person has a right to go onto another person’s land and extract oil from the property. Therefore, it becomes essentially a case of finders keepers, with whomever extracts the oil first being the rightful owner.

Forced Pooling

In some cases, permission from the landowner is not needed in order to drill for oil on their property. Known as forced pooling, this little-known legal tool allows drillers to extract minerals beneath private property without the owner’s permission. A common practice in many established oil states, it has come under fire from those who believe the individual rights of landowners are being compromised.


In many cases, an easement is used to gain permission to drill on the property. For example, if a person knows there is oil on another person’s land, asks for and is given permission to drill on the property, an easement has then been created. Along with permission to use the land for this purpose, agreements regarding other things such as payments are also worked out in advance of any drilling getting started.
While there are multiple factors that must be looked at prior to gaining permission to drill for oil on another person’s land, in some cases it is believed than no permission may be needed. However, because these situations can sometimes involve potentially large amounts of money being at stake, it is best if all parties can come to an agreement that will benefit everyone.