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Oil Majors Behind Flying Start To Hydrocarbon Exploration Activity In Q1 2019

Even before the first quarter’s hydrocarbon exploration and production (E&P) data had been collated, industry predictions on output volume and forward projections for 2019 and beyond sounded upbeat.

For instance, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a solid statement on U.S. production in March, predicting the country’s output would cap the 15 million barrels per day (bpd) level by 2023.

What’s more, the IEA also emphatically predicted a “second wave” of U.S. shale E&P uptick underpinned by technological advances in unconventional drilling and enhanced oil recovery. In parallel, anecdotal and empirical evidence has been increasingly pointing to oil majors entering shale plays in a big way.

Oil majors behind flying start to hydrocarbon exploration activity in Q1 2019 (Photo: Thibault Camus/Associated Press) 

BP’s $10.5 billion purchase of BHP’s shale assets was a popular example, before the recent tussle for the takeover of Anadarko Petroleum broke out between Chevron and Occidental Petroleum. Also turns out the oil majors are proving to be just as deft at upping their conventional production game by taking a bigger bite of the resources discovered globally in the first quarter, according to Rystad Energy.

The Nordic research firm found that discoveries of conventional resources reached 3.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) over first quarter. Most of the gains were recorded in February, totaling around 2.2 billion barrels of discovered resources; the best monthly tally on record since August 2015.

ExxonMobil was the most successful, with three significant offshore discoveries accounting for 38% of total discovered volumes over the quarter. European majors Total and Eni were also in the mix with successful offshore wells in South Africa, United Kingdom, Angola and Egypt.

Repsol operated Kali Berau Dalam gas find in Indonesia took the prize for the largest onshore discovery of the quarter.

Rystad Energy said the push for substantial new discoveries shows no signs of slowing down, with another 35 high impact exploration wells expected to be drilled this year, both onshore and offshore.

Top 15 conventional oil discoveries for Q1 2019 (Source: Rystad Energy).

Rystad Energy

Three such highly prospective wells are already underway – namely the Shell-operated Peroba well, off Brazil, with pre-drill prospective resource estimates of 5.3 billion boe; Eni’s Kekra well in Pakistani waters, with pre-drill prospective resource estimates of 1.5 billion boe; and the Total-operated Etzil well off Mexico, with pre-drill prospective resource estimates of 2.7 billion boe.

“Majors are leading the charge in exploration, reporting more than 2.4 billion boe of discovered resources. The six largest discoveries by the majors each exceed 150 million boe, and the top three could even hold more than 300 million boe apiece,” said Taiyab Zain Shariff, Upstream Analyst at Rystad Energy.

If the rest of 2019 continues at a similar pace, this year will be on track to exceed last year’s discovered resources by a massive 30%, Shariff added.

Furthermore, the global push for substantial new discoveries shows no signs of slowing down, with another 35 high impact exploration wells expected to be drilled this year, both onshore and offshore.

“If these wells prove successful, 2019’s interim discovered resources will be the largest since the downturn in 2014.”

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