Sunday, July 3, 2005

Struggling to find oil

Oil industry ‘struggling to find new reserves’ (By Carl Mortished, International Business Editor, Times Online of London)

The Wood Mackenzie report, Global Oil and Gas Risks and Rewards, shows that typical annual returns from oil exploration — in the region of between three billion and five billion barrels — have not changed since the early 1990s. The only exception to the largely stagnant exploration trend was the discovery in 2000 of Kashagan, a ten billion barrel oilfield, in the Caspian Sea.

Graham Kellas, vice-president at Wood Mackenzie, reckons that the international oil companies were highly successful in finding oil during the past decade, but now are working in a diminishing field of opportunity. “The hunt for oil continues, but it is becoming increasingly difficult,’’ he said. “There are few areas of the world that are unexplored and that is why the larger companies are so keen to get access to areas that are off-limits.”

Shut out from the large known reserves of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, the West’s oil companies have had significant successes, such as in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, Angola and Nigeria. There have also been failures, such as Brazil and Azerbaijan.

Mr Kellas said: “Deep- water Brazil has been a big disappointment. No commercial discoveries have yet been made by international oil companies, despite having spent nearly $1.5 billion.” The collapse in the oil price in 1998 and the ensuing wave of company takeovers led to cutbacks in exploration spending that the oil companies have been slow to restore, fearing further oil gluts. Exploration drilling peaked in 1998 with a total of 725 wells drilled, but in 2003 the West’s oil industry completed just 554 wells.

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