2015 was a big disappointment for explorationists. Only two decent discoveries and, even worse, exploration success was so dismal that we continue to find less oil and gas than we produce.
The only really good news in 2015 was from Egypt. In September, it became known that Total had made a supergiant gas discovery in the deep waters of the Nile delta. The find has a gas column of 630m in Miocene carbonates and a potential of 30 Tcf (850 Bm3) in place. It may turn out to be the world’s 20th largest gas discovery (GEO ExPro, Vol.12, No.5). By comparison, the Troll field offshore Norway had original gas reserves exceeding 49 Tcfg (1,400 Bm3).
There are also rumours that Afek Oil and Gas, an Israeli subsidiary of the U.S. company Genie Energy, has made a giant oil discovery on the Golan Heights, operating on an Israeli licence in an area that was previously governed by Syria. Reserves of several hundred million barrels, and possibly all the way up to one billion barrels, have been mentioned.
Apart from this, however, there is not much to report and, according to Rystad Energy, only some 12 Bboe were found in the year. It also appears that 2015 may be the worst year in 15 years for reserves replacement. Moreover, since 2011 there has been a steady decline in conventional oil and gas discovered worldwide. The best year since 2000 was 2006 with almost 50 Bboe discovered, although most of that was gas.
Lack of success in the last few years has the immediate consequence that conventional reserves are not being replaced as we produce ever more hydrocarbons.
The big surprise to the oil community in the last few years – and the reason for the oil price collapse – has been the growth in shale oil production. This success story has also brought about a significant increase in shale oil reserves. However, it turns out that the substantial reserve growth caused by shale oil cannot replace the increase in production. It is true that more unconventional oil has been found than is being produced, but by combining conventional and unconventional it turns out that for the last 10 years we have produced more than we have found.
In the long run this will certainly result in a higher oil price.