A landman is the connection between oil exploration and development companies and owners of mineral-rich land. Landmen make it possible for each to profit and prosper from the oil and gas underground.
And where would America be without oil? Certainly, the people of 1859, when the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania, could never have imagined the profusion of products and services that would blossom from the infant industry.
Now, you wouldn’t recognize the country without the advances made possible by the exploitation of natural resources such as oil and gas. Everything from the proliferation of motorized vehicles to the plastics that make up the preponderance of products used everyday stems directly from oil.
The landman evolved, and continues to evolve, to meet the ever-growing need for natural resources for our growing population and thirst for technology. But where did the landman begin and how has the profession matured into what it is today?
The Beginnings of the Landman
It could be argued that landmen have been around since land ownership began. In at least one state, landmen are considered real estate brokers. But for the oil and gas industry, the landman was the person who specialized in the legalities of mineral leases, title searches, and lease negotiations.
Wherever oil and gas could be found, the landman acted as the connection between those who owned the mineral rights and those who wished to drill. Without the landman, the industry would have become either a real wild west where oil and gas E&P companies scrambled to find and secure minerals with or without the consent of the landowner, or there would be legal challenges and bad feeling between the landowner and the industry.
As the industry grew, landmen began to come together into associations. The Panhandle Association of Petroleum Landmen formed in 1950 while the American Association of Professional Landmen was established in 1955.
The Discovery of Shale
Both professional organizations came together about the same time as the Barnett Shale play was discovered. Over the course of 50 years, landmen advanced their knowledge and professional practices to match the advance of drilling technology. When horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing were found to be the best way to produce minerals from shale plays, landmen were ready to assist.
Tools and Technology
Early on, the tools of the landman included pencil and paper, a motor vehicle, and plenty of shoe leather. The landman was required to visit multiple courthouses where land records were kept, and spend hours poring through dusty collections of titles and other documentation.
The landman also spent time at potential drilling sites, speaking with the mineral rights owners and liaising with the oil and gas exploration and production company. Like a traveling salesman, the landman spent lots of time on the road and many long hours at work.
As technology advanced, the landman took advantage of each new progression in tools.
- The typewriter became the tool of choice for generating reports. As typewriters changed and became easier to use, the landman moved to each new generation. When personal computers were introduced, they were a boon to the landman’s work. Now the landman depends on portable computing power in the form of a tablet or smartphone, enabling him or her to work anywhere.
- The first telephones allowed the landman to communicate from the field. Payphones advanced to car phones and then to cellular phones, providing immediate communication from the field to the client.
- Maps used to be hand-drawn and, later, printed. The landman needed current maps, requiring new ones at every turn. Now satellite mapping brings the map to the computer and smartphone.
Today’s technology also provides easy and immediate access to a wealth of online documentation. The landman no longer needs to travel to the courthouse to perform title searches. Online title plants and databases make it possible for landmen to work from home, from the client’s location, or at an employer’s desk.
The Landman of Today
The profession of landman continues to grow with the oil and gas industry. Close to 90% of landmen work with oil and gas. With the successful exploration and production from shale plays, the job of the landman grows ever more complex.
According to Salary.com, which has information for five different levels of landman, an entry landman (Landman I or Landman 1) in Houston, TX has at least a bachelor’s degree and zero to two years of experience. The average salary is $90,258 and can reach $98,000 or more. An expert landman (Landman V or Landman 5) often has 10 or more years of experience on top of a bachelor’s degree and commands an average salary of $205,262 and can earn as much as $224,000 or more.
Today’s landman requires expertise in title research and property law. In shale country, landmen may need to negotiate multiple leases because the minerals may be produced from under many different properties.
The world uses more oil and gas than ever before. As long as the industry thrives, the role of landman will be needed. For any student looking for a well-paying career that uses the latest in technology, the profession of landman is worth considering.