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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Texas State Exploration Process (4-TX-a)

In Texas, geothermal exploration on state lands or lands with state interests require either a Prospect Permit or a Geothermal Lease from the Texas General Land Office (GLO). Regardless of who owns of the surface rights and mineral rights, a developer is required to obtain a permit from the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) if drilling is conducted.

State Exploration Process Process

4-TX-a.1 - Will Exploration Be on State Land?

Exploration on state lands or on private lands in which the state holds the mineral and/or leasing rights requires that the developer obtain a Geothermal Lease or Prospect permit from the GLO.

4-TX-a.2 - Has Developer Already Identified Geothermal Resources on the Land?

In an application for prospect permit on a state tract, an applicant may indicate that geothermal energy and related resources are located on the state tract and request an immediate issuance of a lease on that tract. A lease may be issued to the applicant in lieu of a prospect permit if the commissioner determines that geothermal energy and related resources are located on the state tract, if developer's application for prospect permit was received first under 31 TAC 155.41(b)(5) of this title (relating to Prospect Permits on State Fee Lands), and if the SLB approves the application. 31 TAC 155.42.

4-TX-a.3 - Initiate Geothermal Lease Process

State Geothermal Lease:

4-TX-a.4 - Is the Tract Subject to Prospecting?

Generally, Permanent School Fund fee lands and land trade lands are subject to prospecting under 31 TAC 155.41(a). A "fee tract" in Texas means that the mineral estate and the surface estate have been severed (commonly known as a "split estate").

4-TX-a.5 - Application to Prospect: Geothermal, Additional Information, Fee

Any person, firm, or corporation desiring to apply for a prospect permit should make written application upon the form prescribed and furnished by the GLO. The application to prospect must include ( 31 TAC 155.41(b)):

(A) A description of the tract of land which identifies it by the section number, part of section or survey to be prospected, township number, and/or certificate number, if applicable, survey name, block number, number of acres to be prospected, and county or counties in which the land lies and, if land trade lands, the name and address of surface owner of record in the tax assessor's office; and
(B) The name, address, phone number, and taxpayer ID number of the applicant. If the applicant is a corporation, the corporate name, address, phone number, taxpayer ID number, the name of the officer authorized to execute applications for permits and leases, and written evidence confirming that it is not delinquent in paying its franchise taxes.

The application to prospect must be accompanied by the appropriate filing fee.

Permits or immediate lease applications issued under 31 TAC 155.41(b)(1) (relating to Mining Leases on Properties Subject to Prospect) will be considered on the basis of the order in which applications to prospect are received unless the commissioner determines that it is in the best interest of the PSF to do otherwise. An application will be determined to be received on the date and time receipt is acknowledged by the staff of the GLO. 31 TAC 155.41(b)(5).

4-TX-a.6 to 4-TX-a.7 - Will the Exploration Be on TPWD Land?

Special requirements apply to exploration on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) land.

Within 10 days of receipt of an application for permit on lands whose surface is owned or leased by (TPWD) or is subject to a conservation easement in favor of TPWD, the GLO will notify the executive director of the TPWD that an application for permit has been received.

On the same day a permit is issued under this section on land whose surface is owned or leased by TPWD or is subject to a conservation easement in favor of TPWD, the GLO will notify TPWD of the issuance of the permit. The permit issued on such land will state that the surface of such land is owned or leased by TPWD or is subject to a conservation easement in favor of TPWD. Such permit will also state the name of the TPWD park or area manager responsible for the surface of such land. 31 TAC 155.41(c)(3).

4-TX-a.8 - Review Application

The GLO will review the application materials.

An applicant may be requested to supplement the application with information in order that the land office may determine whether issuance of the permit will be in the best interest of the GLO (Permanent School Fund). 31 TAC 155.41(b)(8).

4-TX-a.9 - Is the Permit Found to Be in the Best Interest of the State?

The GLO issues permits based on whether the permit is found to be in the best interest of the state.

4-TX-a.10 - Prospect Permit

At any time during the effective period of a prospect permit, the permittee may submit an application to lease the area covered by the prospect permit or a designated portion thereof. 31 TAC 155.42.

4-TX-a.11 to 4-TX-a.12 - Will the Exploration Be on Land Trade Land?

According to 31 TAC 155.40, land trade lands are lands, the surface of which have been sold or traded with both mineral rights and leasing rights retained by the state.

On land trade lands, the GLO will notify the surface owner that a lease has been issued if the surface owner requests such notice in writing by furnishing the GLO with a current mailing address and a legal description of each tract on which he desires such notice. Notice will also be sent to the surface owner at the address supplied on the application form. Failure to receive notice will not affect the validity of a lease issued under this section. 31 TAC 155.42.

4-TX-a.13 - Will the Developer Engage in Exploratory Drilling?

According to 16 TAC 3.79 an exploratory well includes "any well drilled for the purpose of securing geological or geophysical information to be used in the exploration or development of...geothermal, or other mineral resources, except coal and uranium, and includes what is commonly referred to in the industry as 'slim hole tests,' 'core hole tests,' or 'seismic holes.'"

4-TX-a.14 - Initiate Drilling and Well Development Permit Process with the RRC

Drilling operations in Texas, including exploratory drilling, require the proper drilling permits from the RRC.

Drilling and Well Development:

4-TX-a.15 to 4-TX-a.17 - Will Seismic Work be Performed on State Lands?

The GLO requires a Seismic Permit for seismic work on state-owned lands.

Under 31 TAC 9.11, the GLO requires a developer to file an application to obtain a Seismic Permit for seismic work on state owned lands. The GLO has different application requirements for submerged lands, gulf of mexico, bays and all tidally influenced waters verses upland tracts.

Upland Tracts include lands where the Permanent School Fund owns both the surface and/or minerals, and non-tidaly influenced riverbeds, creeks, lakes, and bayous.

4-TX-a.18 to 4-TX-a.19 - Is the Application Complete?

The GLO will review the application for completeness.

4-TX-a.20 - Seismic Permit

The GLO issues Seismic Permits.

The Seismic Permit is subject to all provisions of 31 TAC 9.11.

Contact Information

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  • 16 TAC 3: Oil and Gas Division
  • 31 TAC 10.2: Prospect Permits on State Lands
  • 31 TAC 9.11: Geophysical and Geochemical Exploration Permits
  • 31 TAC 155: Exploration and Development of Geothermal Energy and Associated Resources on Permanent School Fund Land

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