For example, in North Dakota the shale oil and minerals boom contributed 2.8 percent of GDP growth to the entire state economy in 2011, according to Commerce Department data.
Another variable in how much royalty owners actually receive is the wholesale price of gas. That has dropped significantly over the past two years even as production has boomed in Pennsylvania and many other states. Average wholesale prices went from about $4.50 per unit of gas in 2010 to about $3 in 2012. For many leaseholders, that meant a decline in royalties.
The boom in natural gas royalties has even led to niche spinoff companies that look for lease heirs who don't even know they're owed money.
Michael Zwick is president of Assets International, a Michigan company that searches for missing heirs.
"It was an underserved niche," Zwick said of oil and gas leases. When a company can't find an heir to lease royalties, the money often goes to state unclaimed property funds.
Zwick said he has found a few dozen people whose gas lease money was being held in escrow, including one who was owed about $250,000 in drilling royalties. But the average amount, he said, is far lower.