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Application of Legal Principles to EOR Operations

Jeff Weems, Matt Davis, Enhanced Oil Recovery: Legal Framework for Sustainable Management of Mature Oil Fields

In the middle of the last century, operators began investigating methods of stimulating production from aging reservoirs. Realizing the need to economize their efforts, operators looked to secure large acreage blocks in order to conduct operations that would cover a wide area. Often, legislatures helped in this process. For example, in 1949, after great debate, the Texas Legislature passed the Voluntary Unitization Statute which allowed, under certain conditions, operators to unitize their acreage for secondary recovery activities.1 Other states also adopted mandatory or forced pooling statutes in response to this need.2 Among other things, these statutes afforded operators some protection from anti-trust and other actions from those affected by these operations.3 As will be discussed later, in some instances these statutes supplanted common law remedies for those not unitized or otherwise affected by the enhanced recovery operations.4 The common rationale for the elimination of certain common law rights in connection with such legislation is that the regulatory agency approving such activities was charged with protecting the correlative rights of all affected by the unitization and the proposed activities, thus the protections of common law remedies was unnecessary.

The waterflood operations commenced in the mid-20 century, however, proved to have a limited shelf-life