California Mineral Rights

Learn about mineral rights in California, including the best counties, how to find your wells on a map, valuations, transferring ownership, paying taxes, and more.

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California Mineral Rights

WV ranks #7 in the United States natural oil production and #14 for natural gas.

Top Producing Oil & Gas Counties in California

California has 23 counties, and 10 of them produce some amount of oil and gas.  However, the vast majority of the oil and gas is extracted from just 3 counties. Is your county one of them?

Value of California Mineral Rights

The value of mineral rights in California depends on a variety of factors, including location, production status, decimal interest, production volume, commodity price, lease development, lease terms, and the operator.

How to Locate Your California Mineral Rights

California provides an interactive map that allows mineral owners to search by owner name, parcel number, or well name. Once you locate your well, you can look at the production history and other info.

Transferring Ownership of California Mineral Rights

It’s best to have an attorney help you transfer the ownership of CA mineral rights.  Learn why.

Find Your California Mineral Deed

Looking for proof that you own mineral rights?  Follow these steps to search the deed records.

Sell Your California Mineral Rights

Get an offer for your CA mineral rights.  There is no obligation to sell, and it won’t cost you anything.

california mineral rights map

Top Oil & Gas Producing Counties in California

Kern and Los Angeles Counties are the top-producing counties for both oil and natural gas in California.

Unlike some other states, oil and gas production is concentrated in one area of the state.  Los Angeles and Kern produce the vast majority of the oil and gas, but there are a couple of other producing counties.  These are the top-producing counties:

  • Kern
  • Los Angeles
  • Monterey
  • Ventura
  • Fresno
  • Santa Barbara
  • Orange
  • San Luis Obispo

NOTE: It is important to realize that, even in the top counties, there are areas of the county that produce large amounts of oil and gas but other areas that produce none.  The location is very so important!

Kern & Los Angeles County Mineral Rights

Kern County leads California in oil and natural gas production, followed by Los Angeles County.  Other counties produce dramatically less hydrocarbons. 

California is objectively hostile towards oil and gas development.  Extensive regulations make it difficult to drill for extra oil and gas.  California is also a difficult state to own property due to the high state and property taxes.

kern and los angeles oil production

Image Description:   2024 oil production in California.

California Mineral Rights Value

 

Oil and gas royalties and mineral rights in California are valued differently if they are producing vs. non-producing.

Producing Mineral Rights Value

Producing minerals are mineral rights with an active oil or gas well that is producing economically viable quantities of oil or gas.

Modern Valuation Method

Modern valuation methods use data from royalty statements and public data sources to model future revenue based on recent and predicted future pricing scenarios. This method takes into account your decimal interest, production volumes, decline, deductions, and commodity prices. Most mineral buyers use this valuation method.

In the past, they used to use the Rule of Thumb, which is roughly 30 – 60 months of royalty revenue based on a variety of factors. This method is not suitable for new horozontal wells.

Non-Producing Mineral Rights Value

Non-producing minerals do not have a producing oil or gas well. Because there are no wells, there will be no royalty revenue.

Typically, non-producing minerals are valued based on a multiple of the expected lease bonus.

For example, if the going lease bonus in the county ranges from $100-$200, you can expect to sell your mineral rights for the lease bonus times the number of net mineral acres (NMA) you own.

The value of non-producing minerals is usually stated as a price per net mineral acre. The price per net mineral acre varies from state to state, county to county, and even within a county.

Interested in learning more about the value of your mineral rights?  Check out this guide on 7 Factors That Influence the Value of Mineral Rights or this video about why Location is Everything (via YouTube).

simple redacted deed

Transferring Ownership in California

The proper way to transfer title is by deed or court order (divorce or probate).  In some states, mineral rights can be transferred with an Affidavit of Heirship, but this is not the case in California.  

You always want to have a “marketable title” to your mineral rights, so it’s worth doing the transfer correctly.  It’s best to consult an California oil and gas attorney and get professional advice on transferring mineral rights.

Not sure where to find a California attorney?  Google, “CA oil and gas attorney.”

I have a Deed. What next?

Once you have a legal document conveying the mineral rights from the previous generation to you, you’ll need to have it recorded with the county clerk in the county where the minerals are located.  California also has higher recording fees than most other states.

Notifying Operators

Once the document has been recorded, send a copy to each operator.  More than likely, the operator will send you a division order and put you into pay status.

Need more help (transferring before/after death, after a divorce, or into/out of a trust)?  Our detailed guide to Transferring Mineral Rights may help.

An alternative to transferring ownership is to sell your California mineral rights, which might make sense if the interest is relatively small or the next generation is not interested in managing them.

 

Searching California Deed Records

 

Some California counties allow you to search the deed records online.  However, Los Angeles County does not, citing:

Section 6254.21 of the Government Code prohibits the posting of home addresses on the internet of any elected or appointed official without their written permission. Since we cannot identify such individuals and their home addresses, which may be a part of the record, the Los Angeles County Counsel’s Office recommended that we do not make these records available via the internet.

 If your mineral rights are in another county, you may have access to online deed records.  Simply search the grantor/grantee index for your name or the names of your relatives to locate documents related to your family’s mineral rights.  

If you’re thinking about your estate plan, you might find our guide, Four Things Older Mineral Owners Should Consider,” to be thought-provoking.

kern county deed search
california well map

Image Description: California’s interactive oil and gas well map.

Locating Your Mineral Rights in California

California provides an interactive GIS map that helps mineral owners locate their mineral rights and, if there are any wells, view the details about those wells.

The easiest way to locate your property is to search by legal description.

Your legal description will be on your deed or oil and gas lease.  You might also be able to find it on a will or in probate documents.

 

Paying Taxes for Mineral Taxes in California

All California oil and gas royalty owners pay federal income taxes on their royalty revenue.  The IRS allows royalty owners to deduct a 15% depletion on Federal taxes.

State Taxes

California has one of the highest state taxes, ranging from 1 – 13.3% of income, depending on earnings.

Property Taxes

Ad Valorem Taxes are county taxes levied on mineral rights.

oil well illustration

Image Description: Illustration of an oil pumpjack used on conventional (vertical) oil wells.

California Mineral Right FAQs

Browse these frequently asked questions about CA minerals.

How do I know if I own mineral rights in California?

This is a complex question, and there are many answers.  All property starts off as fee simple (the surface and the minerals are owned by the same person).  Often, mineral rights are severed from the surface, creating two separate chains of title.  

Let’s go over a couple of scenarios:

You purchased a home with a half acre of land

Most real property is sold through a standard real estate transaction, which requires a title company to review the history of land.  The title company probably knows if you own the mineral rights under your property.  You can ask them (or it might be in your documents).

You now own the 20 acre farm that has been in your family for generations.

You may or may not own the mineral rights.  There is a significant chance that you do own the mineral rights, but you would have to do a title search to verify this. Trace the land ownership back to the original land patent, then trace it forward and look for any reservations or conveyances of mineral rights.  Most people do not have the skills to do this, so you may need to hire a landman or an attorney.

What happens to dormant minerals in California?

In California, dormant mineral rights refer to mineral rights that are not being actively used or developed. Here’s what typically happens to these rights:

1. Retention of Ownership
The owner of dormant mineral rights retains ownership even if the rights are not actively being developed. Mineral rights are considered separate from surface rights, and inactivity does not lead to automatic forfeiture of ownership.

2. Potential for Reclamation by Surface Owners
In some cases, surface owners may attempt to reclaim dormant mineral rights if they have been inactive for a long period. This process usually involves legal action and demonstrating that the mineral rights have not been used.

3. Dormant Mineral Act
Some states have Dormant Mineral Acts that allow surface owners to reclaim dormant mineral rights after a certain period of inactivity. California does not have a specific Dormant Mineral Act, but other legal principles, such as adverse possession, may apply under certain conditions.

4. Adverse Possession
Adverse possession is a legal doctrine that allows a person to claim ownership of land under certain conditions. In the context of mineral rights, this could potentially apply if the surface owner can demonstrate continuous and open use of the minerals for a statutory period, which is challenging to prove.

5. Leasing and Development
Mineral rights owners can lease their dormant mineral rights to exploration and development companies. This can generate income for the owner and lead to the development of the minerals.

6. State Regulations and Requirements
California has regulations that require certain actions to maintain mineral rights, such as filing specific documents or paying taxes. Failure to comply with these requirements could potentially lead to the loss of mineral rights.

7. Market Conditions and Interest
Dormant mineral rights may remain inactive due to market conditions, lack of interest, or economic viability. Owners may hold onto these rights until conditions improve.

8. Notification and Public Records
Owners of dormant mineral rights should ensure their contact information is up to date in public records to avoid complications. If a company or individual seeks to develop the minerals, they need to be able to contact the owner.

I just inherited mineral rights. What should I do first?

Congratulations!  Welcome to the club of 12 million mineral owners. The United States is the only country where mineral rights are owned by individuals, so it’s a special club.

The first thing you need to do is make sure the mineral rights have been transferred to your name.  This process is not necessarily automatic, you may need to hire an attorney to probate an estate or draft mineral deeds.

If you have producing minerals (there are one or more wells on the property), you need to send your proof of ownership (usually a deed, divorce decree, or recorded probate documents) to the operator and ask them to transfer the ownership.

The operator will do their research, and if everything checks out, they will transfer the ownership to you.  They may send a division order to make sure that both of you agree about the amount of interest you own.

Be sure you keep copies of all your mineral documents – they will come in handy later and help you effectively manage your mineral rights.

How do I sell CA mineral rights?

It’s easy to sell your CA mineral rights and it doesn’t cost you anything.  Here is the basic process:

1.  Request an offer.  We’ll need to see your latest royalty statements. If you have more documents, such as deeds or 1099s, that’s great, but don’t worry if you have limited info.

2.  We will give you an offer. You can decide if you want to accept it, look for competing offers, or reject it.  Requesting an offer doesn’t obligate you to sell.

3.  If you want to proceed with the sale, we will do a title search and draft the closing documents.

4.  We will coordinate the closing process to meet both of our schedules. It is usually done remotely, but if you are in the DFW area, we can close in-person if you want.

 

 

california oil well map

Image Description: Map of oil and gas wells in part of California.  

Where We Buy Mineral Rights

We buy both producing and non-producing minerals in all oil and gas states. However, we are especially interested in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas mineral rights.

We even buy minerals in more obscure states, such as Michigan and Illinois, which produce a very little oil and gas compared to other states.

oil and gas producing states map

How We Value Mineral Rights

There are many factors that play into the value of mineral rights. These include location, producing vs. non-producing properties, current oil and gas prices, well production figures, lease terms, and even the operator of the well or wells. We also look at the risks of buying and owning minerals that you are interested in selling.

Location

Minerals in the hottest shale plays are more valuable than those in older fields with conventional wells.

Producing vs. Non-Producing

Producing minerals are often worth more than non-producing minerals because they are generating revenue.

Oil & Gas Prices

When oil and gas prices drop, revenue drops, and sometimes operators are unable to continue operating the well.

Production

Highly productive wells (and off-set wells) can increase the value of your minerals.

Lease Terms

Favorable lease terms (such as a 25% royalty reservation) positively impact the value of the leased minerals.

Operator

A small number of operators are unethical, and their reputation automatically devalues your minerals.

Why Sell?

People sell mineral rights for a variety of reasons. As a mineral owner, you are fortunate to own an asset that can be quickly converted to cash. It is advisable to sell while you are still receiving royalties – after all, oil and gas are finite resources, and all well eventually run dry. It’s better to sell early and maximize the value.

Why People Sell Their Mineral Rights

I am putting my affairs in order. I don’t want to burden my kids with the hassle of transferring ownership and managing small mineral rights. When my sister passed away, my niece and nephew had to hire an attorney to help them with the minerals. I don’t want my kids to go through that.

Lynn E.

I inherited my mineral rights so they were sentimental, but I don’t really want to bother with managing them and filing extra tax returns. I decided to sell and use the money as a down payment on my house.

Elizabeth R.

I had no idea how fast the oil production would decline. My checks are only 20% of what they were a few years ago. I should have sold my mineral rights when the wells were brand new and still generating huge royalties.

Miguel F.

My oil wells have been producing for decades and the reserves are almost depleted. Once the wells are plugged, the value will be significantly lower. I’d rather cash out now.

Raymond R.

I inherited mineral rights, but don’t want to be involved with fracking and fossil fuels. I would prefer to support renewable energy and do my part to reverse climate change.

Pam H.

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