Gas Leases & Signing Bonuses

Many landowners are being approached with offers to lease their land. The size of the signing bonuses that have been paid in transactions between informed buyers and informed sellers is directly related to two factors: 1) the level of uncertainty in the mind of the buyer, and 2) the number of other buyers competing to make the purchase. These factors have changed significantly in a very short time.

As recently as 2005 there was very little interest in leasing properties for Marcellus Shale gas production. The Marcellus was not considered to be an important gas resource and a technology for tapping it had not been demonstrated. At that time the level of uncertainty in the minds of the buyers was very high and the signing bonuses were a few dollars per acre.

When the potential of the Marcellus was first suspected in 2006 a small number of speculators began leasing land – paying risky signing bonuses that were sometimes as high as $100 per acre. In late 2007 signing bonuses of a few hundred dollars per acre were common. Then, as the technology was demonstrated and publicized signing bonuses began to rise rapidly. By early 2008 several wells with strong production rates were drilled, numerous investors began leasing and the signing bonuses rose from a few hundred dollars per acre up to over $2000 per acre for the most desirable properties.

If the results of current and future drilling activity do not match the expectations of companies paying for leases the amounts that they are willing to pay could drop rapidly.