The ability of landowners to profit from oil and gas development on their land depends on whether they own the oil and gas rights associated with their property. Nationally, 5.4 percent of farm operators reported owning oil and gas rights in 2014. In counties with oil and gas production, the share was higher at 11.4 percent.
The share of operators who reported owning oil and gas rights exceeded the national average in states where oil and gas counties were abundant—including Oklahoma and Pennsylvania (about 14 percent each) and Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, and North Dakota (about 10 percent each). Separate ownership of the surface and subsurface rights is more common in the Western U.S., particularly when shale formations lie above or below conventional oil and gas fields with a history of drilling because oil and gas rights may have been sold previously.
By comparison, the Marcellus shale play extends into areas of Pennsylvania with little history of drilling. Unified ownership is likely much higher there, increasing that state’s share. — USDA Economic Research Service