Water and oil, and still more strongly gas, may be classed by themselves, if the analogy be not too fanciful, as minerals ferae naturae. In common with animals, and unlike other minerals, they have the power and the tendency to escape without the volition of the owner. Their fugitive and wandering existence within the limits of a particular tract was uncertain. They belong to the owner of the land, and are part of it, so long as they are on or in it, and are subject to his control; but when they escape, and go into other land, or come under another's control, the title of the former owner is gone. Possession of the land, therefore, is not necessarily possession of the gas.
After exhausting the gas from a leased field, the appellee natural gas company brought in vast quantities of gas from distant fields and put it by force through its previously drilled wells into the vacated underground reservoir, withdrawing it as desired. Appellant adjacent property owner brought a trespass action against the company alleging that the gas was placed in or under her property without her knowledge or consent. The trial court found for the company and the court affirmed the judgment.
Was appellee liable to the adjacent property owner for the use of her land?
The court found that the company had acquired title to the gas but when it restored it to its original natural status by being placed in the reservoir, taking the place of other gas which once occupied that same subterranean chamber, the company was no longer in possession of the gas and therefore, lost its title to the gas. Therefore, if the gas wandered into the adjacent property owner's land, the company was not liable to her for the value of the use of her property, for the company ceased to be the exclusive owner of the gas, it again became mineral ferae naturae.