Six major oil companies – ExxonMobil, bp, Shell, TotalEnergies, Eni, and Chevron – are poised to play a significant role in global exploration activities this year. According to industry forecasts by Rystad Energy, these major players are expected to collectively spend approximately US$7 billion on exploration in 2023, marking a notable 10% increase compared to the previous year.
Exploration activity is projected to gain momentum in the second half of 2023, with plans to drill crucial exploration wells in various regions. As exploration shifts towards the offshore sector and focuses more on frontier regions, the majors have taken a leading role in exploring these underexplored or virgin areas, Rystad Energy said in a new report. Such regions are known to harbour technically prospective yet-to-be-drilled prospects, presenting attractive opportunities for major oil companies.
Forecasts suggest that these companies will contribute about 14% of the total global exploration spending in the coming months, underscoring their relative significance in the industry. While the major oil companies play a critical role, national oil companies (NOCs) hold the most extensive subsurface resource base at their disposal. In 2023, over half of the projected exploration spending will come from NOCs and NOCs with international portfolios (INOC).
Despite the substantial investment and exploration activities, success in the exploration endeavours is yet to be fully realised, according to Rystad Energy. So far, only 30% of the anticipated wells have been completed, leaving a significant portion of exploration activities still underway. Out of the remaining 56 exploration wells, only 23 have been drilled or are expected to be drilled this year. This indicates that about 60% of the exploration wells are likely to be drilled or postponed until 2024.
“Experts remain optimistic that even if 2023 experiences limited success, the potential for a rebound in exploration activities exists for the following year. The ongoing exploration efforts and remaining planned wells highlight the magnitude of the exploration activity yet to come, paving the way for potential successes in the future,” the report said.