Oil companies constantly seek out new sources of petroleum. Finding oil-rich land provides them with opportunities for growth, and landmen play a key role in turning successful exploration into new revenue. After geologists identify land that may hold oil, landmen investigate who owns the land and act as representatives of oil companies to secure the company’s right to drill and pump the crude. According to JPMC Investments, the petroleum industry has a strong need for qualified landmen.
A petroleum landman contacts landowners and mineral rights holders for a specific piece of land and negotiates on behalf of the company to work out lease agreements and land purchases. Negotiations may involve private landowners, but landmen also negotiate with governments, utility companies and other oil companies. During the negotiation process, the landman establishes how much the oil company will pay, lease length and special conditions. The landman must obtain the signature of the landowners and mineral owners on the lease agreement and record the lease at the county courthouse in the county where the land is located.
The landman’s first task involves determining who owns land and mineral rights for the land. This requires him to visit county courthouses, where public documents identify who holds title and mineral rights to specific pieces of land within the county. The courthouse also will have record of any pre-existing oil leases for the land. Other tasks required for the job include preparing documents, such as lease and purchase agreements and recording legal documents such as affidavits, notices and deeds. The landman also works with the petroleum company’s title department to ensure that title records are accurate and easily accessible, and writes detailed reports documenting his work to secure land leases and purchases.
To work as a petroleum landman, you must have good researching capabilities, knowledge of geography, and a detailed understanding of federal and state laws pertaining to oil drilling and extraction. You must know where to find property records at county courthouses, and how to interpret real estate records, such as lease agreements, property deeds and tax records. The job requires a strong understanding of legal language associated with real estate. You also need to be a skilled map reader since your job requires you to review tax maps, deed maps and other real estate drawings. Good negotiation and communication skills are required, too.
Most landmen in the petroleum industry have a combination of education and experience in land management. While a degree is not required, most employers seek individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in land management, business management or geology. A master’s degree or a law degree will boost your chances of finding a job. Companies also seek individuals with related experience in land management and oil exploration. This may include working in an oil company's titling department.