§ 45.1-361.20

Field rules and drilling units for wells; hearings and orders

A. In order to prevent the waste of gas or oil, the drilling of unnecessary wells, or to protect correlative rights, the Board on its own motion or upon application of the gas or oil owner shall have the power to establish or modify drilling units. Drilling units, to the extent reasonably possible, shall be of uniform shape and size for an entire pool. Any gas, oil, or royalty owner may apply to the Board for the establishment of field rules and the creation of drilling units for the field. Unless such motion is made or an application is received at least thirty days prior to the next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Board, it shall not be heard by the Board at such meeting and shall be heard at the next meeting of the Board thereafter.

B. At any hearing of the Board regarding the establishment or modification of drilling units, the Board shall make the following determinations:

1. Whether the proposed drilling unit is an unreasonable or arbitrary exercise of a gas or oil owner’s right to explore for or produce gas or oil;

2. Whether the proposal would unreasonably interfere with the present or future mining of coal or other minerals;

3. The acreage to be included in the order;

4. The acreage to be embraced within each drilling unit and the shape thereof;

5. The area within which wells may be drilled on each unit; and

6. The allowable production of each well.

C. In establishing or modifying a drilling unit for coalbed methane gas wells, and in order to accommodate the unique characteristics of coalbed methane development, the Board shall require that drilling units conform to the mine development plan, if any, and if requested by the coal operator, well spacing shall correspond with mine operations, including the drilling of multiple coalbed methane gas wells on each drilling unit.

D. If an order to establish or modify a drilling unit will allow a well to be drilled into or through a coal seam, any coal owner within the area to be covered by the drilling unit may object to the establishment of the drilling unit. Upon a coal owner’s objection, and without superseding, impairing, abridging or affecting any contractual rights or obligations existing between coal and gas owners, the Board shall make its determination in accordance with the provisions of §§ 45.1-361.11 and 45.1-361.12.

E. The Board may continue a hearing to its next meeting to allow for further investigation and the gathering and taking of additional data and evidence. If at the time of a hearing there is not sufficient evidence for the Board to determine field boundaries, drilling unit size or shape, or allowable production, the Board may enter a temporary order establishing provisional drilling units, field boundaries, and allowable production for the orderly development of the pool pending receipt of the information necessary to determine the ultimate pool boundaries, spacing of wells for the pool, and allowable production. Upon additional findings of fact, the boundaries of a pool, drilling units for the pool, and allowable production may be modified by the Board.

F. Unless otherwise provided for by the Board, after an application for a hearing to establish or modify drilling units or pool boundaries has been filed, no additional wells shall be permitted in the pool until the Board’s order establishing or modifying the pool or units has been entered.

G. After the Board issues a field or pool spacing order which creates drilling units or a pattern of drilling units for a pool, should a gas or oil owner apply for a permit or otherwise indicate his desire to drill a well outside of such drilling units or pattern of drilling units and thereby potentially extend the pool, the Board may, on its own motion or the motion of any interested person, require that the well be located and drilled in compliance with the provisions of the order affecting the pool.

History

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-301; 1987, c. 452; 1989, c. 529; 1990, c. 92.

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