Rule of Capture Law & Legal Definition

Rule of capture states that the first person to capture a natural resource owns that resource. A rule of capture helps in determining the ownership of natural resources like groundwater, oil and gas that is captured. The rule encourages an owner to drill as many wells as possible on his/her piece of land so as to extract all the groundwater, oil and gas. The rule of capture was developed by English common law. However, U.S. courts have also applied the rule of capture.

Producing states like Kansas have abandoned the rule of capture in favor of assigning more equitable correlative rights to gas producers. Kansas also favors directly regulating production so as to prevent waste. [Northwest Cent. Pipeline Corp. v. State Corp. Comm'n, 489 U.S. 493, 498 (U.S. 1989)]