While an oil field never goes entirely dry, it eventually becomes unproductive because the cost of extracting the remaining oil exceeds its market value. While operators have been, and continue to be, remarkably adept at finding new practices and technologies to extend the lives of mature oil fields, new fields need to be discovered to meet the world’s future demand for oil.
So, where were the biggest oil and gas discoveries last year? Here are five of them.
1. Africa’s MSGBC basin
With a resource magnitude in excess of 1,000 MMboe (million barrels of oil equivalents) in gas, Kosmos and BP’s offshore Yakaar 1 well looks likely to be the biggest discovery of 2017. Despite some other disappointing results from exploratory drilling, the MSGBG basin remains largely unexplored. With higher oil prices and greater optimism in the industry, it is likely that further discoveries will be announced in the near future.
2. The Guyana-Surinam basin
Guyana is one of many Latin American countries to experience oil discoveries in 2017. ExxonMobil may make high quality lubricants for Mobil distributors, but it’s also one of the world’s biggest upstream oil producers. Its Stabroek Block off the coast of Guyana yielded an impressive three of the world’s most promising exploration wells in 2017. What’s more, all are estimated to have a resource magnitude of 100-500 MMboe in oil. The company recently raised its estimate for the block’s recoverable resources from 3.2 billion boe to more than 4 billion boe.
Mexico also saw two big discoveries of between 1-2 billion boe last year. For example, the Zuma 1 offshore well was drilled and yielded results for Talos, while the biggest onshore discovery in 15 years was reported in the Veracruz Basin Pemex.
4. United States
While much has been said about US shale oil, the country also made a big discovery in Alaska’s Colville Basin with Armstrong Energy’s Horseshoe wells. In the Nanshuck play, where the wells are located, the operators believe there may be around 1.2 billion barrels.
Iraq is already a major oil producer, but years of sanctions and wars have meant that much of its reserves, both unproven and proven, are still ripe for exploration. This was evidenced with 2017’s biggest discovery in the Middle East. After drilling its exploratory Eridu-1 well in the Mesopotamian Basin, operator Lukoil and its partner INPEX Corp announced the discovery of sweet oil. A further two appraisal wells led to an estimate of a billion barrels of recoverable reserves.
Of course, not all discoveries are so big. For example, while North Sea oil is thought to be in decline, operators are still making sub-100 MMboe discoveries in the British, Dutch, and Norwegian areas of the North Sea. Indeed, there seems to be no indication the world will run out of oil. In 2015, oil giant BP estimated that oil reserves would double by 2050, even in the face of booming consumption. What’s more, the company also predicted there would be enough accessible energy to meet global demand 20 times over once other forms of energy (e.g. nuclear and renewables) were also considered.