Conventional Discovered Oil and Gas Volumes Falling to New Lows

Despite rising investments in conventional oil and gas exploration, discovered volumes are falling to new lows.

That’s what Rystad Energy research shows, the company highlighted in a new release sent to Rigzone, adding that its estimates show that in the first half of 2023, explorers found 2.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe), which the company said was 42 percent lower than the first half of 2022 total of 4.5 billion boe.

Rystad revealed in the release that 55 discoveries have been made from January to June this year, “compared to 80 in the first six months of last year”. The company noted in the release that this means discoveries in 2023 have averaged 47 million boe, which it said is lower than the 56 million boe per discovery for the same period in 2022.

In the release, Rystad stated that, “in the hunt for new resources”, exploration companies are prioritizing the offshore sector. The offshore industry accounted for about 95 percent of exploration spending this year to date, but only about two-thirds of discovered volumes, the company highlighted in the release.

In a chart included in the publication, Rystad revealed that annual global conventional exploration spending is expected to top $50 billion in 2023. This figure came in below $50 billion in 2022 and just above $40 billion in 2021, according to the chart.

“Upstream companies are facing a period of uncertainty,” Aatisha Mahajan, the Vice President of Upstream Research at Rystad Energy, said in a company statement.

“They are eager to capitalize on the increased demand for fossil fuels and find additional resources, but recent results have been lackluster,” Mahajan added.

“If exploration efforts continue to yield unimpressive results for the remainder of the year, 2023 could be a record-breaker for the wrong reasons,” the VP continued.

Top Countries, Offshore Discovery Type, HI Wells

Guyana leads the way in discovered volumes so far in 2023, with 603 million boe, Rystad outlined in the release. Turkey ranks second with 380 million boe, Nigeria lies third with 296 million boe, and Namibia places fourth with 287 million boe, according to Rystad, which highlighted that there is potential for these estimates to grow “as we better understand the reserves”.

Offshore discoveries are spread relatively evenly between ultra-deepwater, deepwater, and shelf finds, Rystad noted in the release. The company added that it expects increased activity in the remainder of 2023, especially in the ultra-deepwater market, “with projected growth of 27 percent versus 2022 in terms of spud wells”.

In another chart included in the release, Rystad ranked the top 15 basins by offshore well spud activity from January to June this year. The U.S. Gulf deepwater was top, the Viking Graben in Norway/UK was second, and Mexico’s Sureste was third, according to the chart.

Rystad said in the release its research shows that 31 high-impact wells are expected to be drilled this year. So far, 13 have been completed, six are ongoing, and 12 remain in the pipeline, the company highlighted, adding that “only four of the 13 completed wells encountered hydrocarbons, a measly 31 percent success rate”.


ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, TotalEnergies, Eni, and Chevron are expected to spend about $7 billion this year on exploration, Rystad outlined in the release, adding that this is about 10 percent higher than last year.

Rystad noted in the release that its forecasts show that the majors will contribute about 14 percent of total global exploration spending in the coming months. More than half of the projected exploration spending in 2023 will come from national oil companies and national oil companies with international portfolios, however, the company revealed in the release.

In a statement posted on its site back in May, Rystad noted that global energy reliability concerns are triggering a surge in oil and gas investments but warned that this uptick is only temporary.

“After Russia invaded Ukraine, expected investments in fossil fuels in 2022 and 2023 surged by $140 billion, Rystad Energy research shows,” Rystad said in the statement.

“Before the war, the two-year total was projected at $945 billion, but as the war sparked shortages and sky-high prices, expected spending has jumped to almost $1.1 trillion,” the company added.

“Of the $140 billion growth, shale production attracted most of the limelight with an additional $80 billion increase, as activity climbed 30 percent and pricing for oilfield services jumped nearly 50 percent. Offshore production accounted for $40 billion in growth, while other onshore activities expanded by an additional $20 billion,” Rystad continued.

2022 A Standout Year

The global oil and gas exploration sector had its strongest year in 2022 in more than a decade, Wood Mackenzie said in a statement posted on its site back in January this year.

“Wood Mackenzie’s ‘Oil and gas exploration: 2022 in review’ report states that exploration well numbers were less than half the numbers during pre-pandemic years, yet the total volume of 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent matched the average annual volumes of 2013-2019,” the company said in the statement.

“2022 was a standout year for exploration,” Julie Wilson, the Director of global exploration research at Wood Mackenzie, noted in the statement.

“Volumes were good, but not stellar. However, explorers were able to drive very high value through strategic selection and focusing on the best and largest prospects,” Wilson added.

“The discoveries bring higher-quality hydrocarbons into companies’ portfolios, allowing them to reduce carbon by displacing less advantaged oil and gas supplies while also meeting the world’s energy needs,” Wilson went on to state.

Source: Rigzone

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