April 03, 2017

2017: A Silver Lining for Oil and Gas Discoveries

Stratas Advisors

This excerpt is from a report that is available to subscribers of Stratas Advisors’ Global Hydrocarbon Supply and Global Upstream Project Analytics services, and Global Energy Perspectives.

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The number of oil and gas discoveries dropped significantly to less than 20 in 2016, from more than 70 in 2015 and about 90 in 2014 (Figure 1), reflecting huge impacts of the exploration spending cuts around the globe during the past two years.

Figure 1 – Global Oil and Gas Discovery Counts (2014 – Mar. 2017)



However, there is a sign of recovery through 2017. In the first quarter of 2017, we saw nine new discoveries recorded. That reflected a higher drilling activity starting in the second half of 2016, when the oil price climbed up to about $50/bbl. In 2017, discoveries have been found Alaska, offshore Norway, onshore Iraq, offshore Guyana and onshore Kenya.

Operators have made significant discoveries in US since the second half of 2016, which dwarfed other areas across the globe.

  • First, in September 2016, Apache confirmed a significant new source play, Alpine High, in the southern portion of the Delaware Basin in Texas. The discovery is estimated to hold about in place reserves of 75 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of rich gas and 3 billion barrels of oil in the Barnett and Woodford formations alone.  Apache also estimates a significant oil potential in the shallower Pennsylvanian, Bone Springs and Wolfcamp formations.
  • Caelus Energy announced in October 2016 the prospect of 6 billion barrels of oil in place in Smith Bay on the western North Slope. The Smith Bay recoverable reserves could top 2.4 billion barrels of light oil.
  • In January, ConocoPhillips announced a new oil discovery in the Greater Mooses Tooth (GMT) Unit located in the northeast portion of the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPRA). Initial technical estimates indicate the discovery could have recoverable resource potential in excess of 300 million barrels of light crude oil.
  • Then, in March of this year, Repsol and partner Armstrong Energy made the Horseshoe discovery in Alaska, which extends the Nanushuk play as a significant emerging play in Alaska’s North Slope. The total play could have an approximately 1.2 billion barrels of recoverable light oil.

The four discoveries together could add up to 3.3 billion barrel of recoverable oil and 45 Tcf of recoverable gas, which counts about 90% of the oil and gas finds globally in 2016 and 2017.