Pennsylvania Superior Court Ruling Makes Ownership of Marcellus Shale Unclear


Who owns the Marcellus shale gas?

A recent ruling handed down by the Pennsylvania Superior Court has thrown that simple idea into question.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in the 1882 case Dunham v. Kirkpatrick that a property does not contain oil unless there is evidence to the contrary contained in the deed, according to business law firm Steptoe and Johnson. The Supreme Court then announced in 1960 that a grant or reservation containing "oil" would not include "gas" unless the parties involved clearly expressed their intention to make it that way.

In the case of Butler v Charles Powers Estate, the court ruled on September 7, 2011, that plaintiffs should be given the chance to develop a record in an attempt to prove that the Marcellus shale gas should be defined as a mineral and therefore qualify as being part of a reservation, that gas contained in the formation is different from the gas described in the Dunham case and finally that shale may be closer to being coal than to conventional oil and gas, according to the Oil and Gas Journal, a U.S. trade publication.