High-impact exploration drilling activity increased substantially in the first half of 2019 with 51 exploration wells completed, compared to 36 in the same period in 2018. It’s back to gas though, with gas discoveries up and oil down on 2018. The commercial success rate has also improved significantly, running at 37% so far compared to ~27% recorded in 2017 and 2018. 16 discoveries estimated to be larger than 100mmboe have already been made in the first half of the year, with the largest discoveries all being gas at Dinkov (~14tcf) and Nyarmeyskoye (4.3tcf) in the Kara Sea offshore Russia, and Glaucus (4.5tcf) in the Eastern Mediterranean offshore Cyprus. The largest oil discoveries are considered to be at Yellowtail and Tilapia offshore Guyana, both at more than 300mmbbl.
18 frontier play tests were completed in the first half of 2019 with only one potential commercial play opener, at the Brulpadda-1AX well in the Outeniqua Basin offshore South Africa. High-impact emerging play exploration was dominated by the Upper Cretaceous Liza play offshore Guyana, the Pliocene deepwater clastic play offshore Trinidad and the Cretaceous gas play in the South Kara Sea. High-impact success was also seen in maturing/mature plays, including Eni’s prolific Block 15/06 offshore Angola (Agidigbo and Agogo) and at CNOOC’s Glengorm discovery in the Central N Sea.
Westwood projects that a further ~35-40 high-impact exploration wells will complete by the end of 2019, resulting in more than 85 for the year, a ~35% increase on 2018 levels. Westwood estimates that a total of ~10bnboe could be found by the end of the year, delivering the highest volumes from high-impact exploration since 2015. Drilling in maturing and mature plays is expected to drive the increase in the well count with the frontier program expected to remain roughly inline with 2018, at around 32 frontier wells.
High impact drilling “hot-spots” will be the Suriname-Guyana Basin, the MSGBC, the Gulf of Mexico and Northwest Europe, which is expected to have a busy year for exploration with at least a further 7 high-impact wells expected, in addition to the 17 completed in 1H 2019. However, high-impact success in Northwest Europe in the first half of the year has been limited, with only Glengorm estimated to be >100mmboe.
Westwood’s recently published briefing note includes an analysis of 10 ‘Key Wells to Watch’ expected in the second half of 2019, which are either high-value single prospects or have wider significance for the industry. Some of the wells featured include CNOOC’s Iolar well in the Porcupine Basin offshore Ireland, targeting a frontier Upper Jurassic play; Eni’s Aspen well in the Southern North Sea, targeting a frontier Carboniferous carbonate play; and Sculpin in the Gippsland Basin offshore Australia, targeting a frontier Late Cretaceous–Paleogene clastic prospect, in much deeper water than previously explored in the basin.
Jamie Collard, Senior Analyst
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