When it comes time to drill the well, the oil and gas company must be absolutely sure that it has every right to do so. There should be no surprise owners. There should be nobody waiting in the wings to grab part of the production that doesn’t have a lease or royalty interest.
The drill site runsheet is the primary method of ensuring that every shred of documentation has been found. The title attorney needs to know everything there is to know about the parcel to be drilled.
Defining a Drill Site Runsheet
A drill site runsheet, sometimes called a title runsheet or drilling title runsheet, is a form used to record information about the property to be drilled and a list of the documents from a title search. The runsheet and copies of all the documents are provided to the title attorney.
Runsheets are used for multiple purposes, depending on the purpose of the document review. The drill site runsheet is considered the most comprehensive of them all.
- It contains an entry for every document recorded in the clerks’ offices affecting the parcel of land under consideration.
- The title attorney needs all the available information to render a decision, so even when a source of information seems questionable to the researcher should be included.
- The list begins with the land patent and continues to the date at the end of the title search or closing date of the indices, whichever is earlier.
Runsheets look like a check register or itemized invoice. While they used to be filled out manually, technology grants researchers the boon of computer data entry, including prepared templates. Runsheets contain almost every piece of information you can think of to describe a piece of land.
The runsheet is the work product of a landman. Any other document or work a landman generates is derived from the information in that runsheet.
What You Need to Know Before Starting Your Search
Before heading to the courthouse or your computer, you should answer a few preliminary questions.
- The period of time to be covered
- The scope of the runsheet
- Which oil and gas leases require a complete research
- The required format
Most title decisions require the runsheet to cover the parcel from the sovereignty of the soil to the present. In Texas, that means going all the way back to the Republic of Texas for some documentation. However, a runsheet could be limited to a period from the date of a previous title opinion to the present, or from the date of the last runsheet to present.
The scope of the runsheet may limit the information.
- Fee simple title
- Surface, mineral, and non-participating royalty interests only
- Mineral and current leasehold ownership only, or
- Surface and bottom hole locations, or pooled acreage.
The lease search requirements may differ, as well. You may be required to locate all the assignments and leases of every prior lease there ever was. Or you may need to find releases of all prior leases. Perhaps the smallest scope would be to limit your research to the current leasehold estate and no other.
Your client or the title attorney may require a particular format.
- A list or index of documents
- List of documents and a short summary
- List of documents and complete title notes
Find out what information your client or the title attorney requires before starting your search. Otherwise, you are likely to perform more work than needed, or alternatively, you will need to revisit sources.
All runsheets should have a minimum of information that describes the parcel and how the title to it is held. Record the following:
- The volume, page, or record number of the recording reference
- The type of instrument conveying the land such as a Deed or OGL
- The date of the instrument
- The effective date, if it differs from the instrument date.
- The filing date and a note of any difference between the filing and recording dates
- The grantor and grantee
That already sounds like a lot. But wait, there’s more!
Now that some of the basics are out of the way, the runsheet also needs to have a brief property description, a reference list of all the documents cited, fee or term mineral or royalty reservations, and any defects you found. Records easements and rights of way; all oil, gas, and mineral leases; notification if releases are missing; and anything unusual.
Defects can include drafting errors, execution inconsistencies, faulty acknowledgments, description mistakes, and so on. Tax certificates are essential documents that can show whether there are unpaid back taxes that could result in a tax lien or foreclosure, for example. Other red flags include unrecorded instruments, lack of heirship information or probate proceedings, unleased mineral interests, a break in the chain of title, or non-participating royalty interests.
Every certificate must be obtained from every single entity that assesses and collects taxes on that parcel. No statements, certificates only.
The entire bundle is handed off to the title attorney to conduct an examination to ensure there is no impediment to drilling the site.
Where Does All This Information Come From?
Until recently, you may have been required to do some traveling. At the county offices, you would need to search records from the central appraisal district, the county and district clerks, the county engineer, and the tax assessor and collector. Most of this would probably be in one place, but you may need to hit two or more county courthouses to get it all.
The information is in dusty, bulky binders, many of the documents hand-written. If someone else is there performing research, you may have to wait for a particular resource.
Today you are in luck. You may be able to access most, if not all, of this information via an online title plant. CourthouseDirect.com is a good example. Every type of land record you need can be found in a comprehensive online database that is easily searched from your computer at home or even on your smartphone.
Even if you can’t find every document you need, at least you can get most of it done from the comfort of your office desk. Grantor-grantee records, titles and deeds, and anything else having to do with a plot of land can be found.
Once you complete your search, compile a runsheet package that includes:
- A certification letter with a verification date
- All plats, maps, and sketches
- A clean map for attorney use
- Tax certificates
- Flow charts
- The runsheet itself
- Copies of documents filed by memorandum, all unrecorded documents, and, if the attorney wants them, copies of all the other materials.
You may be able to provide these in electronic format as well. Once you complete your drill site runsheet, the title attorney and the operator of the oil and gas site will have everything they need to determine if the site is legally safe to drill.