Exploration activity is becoming more diversified in South America

September 1, 2016

Publisher: GEOExPro, September Edition

Historical offshore exploration activity in South America had been dominated by Brazil. Over the last two years, this picture changed, as drilling activity in Brazil declined and activity grew in other parts of the region.

At the beginning of this decade, Brazilian exploration activity peaked at more than 120 exploration wells drilled per year. Petrobras and OGX led the charge by exploring the Campos and Santos basins. Since then, the exploration activity has declined in Brazil. In 2015 35 exploration wells were drilled and the number will continue to fall to ~20 wells this year.

At the same time activity in Brazil declined, activity outside Brazil has been growing. In fact 2016, will be the first year in history where the number of spudded wells outside Brazil exceeds those in Brazil. The growth is driven by countries including Suriname, Guyana, and Falkland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Suriname, the national oil company drilled two wells, while Apache and Inpex drilled one well each in 2015, none of which resulted in a major discovery. In 2016, Petronas and DEA plan to drill a well in the Roselle prospect. In Guyana, ExxonMobil made the large Liza discovery last year. Liza was the largest oil discovery globally in 2015, and is estimated to produce 1 billion boe. Exxon plans to appraise the discovery in 2016 and targets other prospects in the same block bringing the total number of exploration wells to around five.

Two other high impact exploration wells drilled this year are Total’s Raya (Uruguay) and BHP’s LeClerc (Trinidad & Tobago). Raya is the world’s deepest well ever-drilled at 3,412 meters below sea level. This well could open up one of the greatest exploration opportunities this century, as predicted by studies carried out on Spectrum seismic on both sides of the Atlantic margin. LeClerv is the first deep water well of Trinidad and Tobago.

As the exploration activity started to fall in 2012, so did the exploration results. In the period 2008-2012 the average yearly discovered offshore volumes for South America were around 9 billion boe. In 2015, this number had dropped to around 1.1 billion boe. In total, the average discovery cost per barrel has increased from ~1.3 to ~7.0 USD/boe over this period. This shows that South America, along with the rest of the offshore world, is struggling to deliver the necessary exploration results. The choice of diversifying the exploration effort might be one way of reverting this development.

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Julia Weiss, VP Marketing
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