Despite concerns that Covid-19 could drive down discovered volumes to their lowest levels in decades, exploration activity has been resilient this year. Found resources already exceed 8 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) and are projected to settle at around 10 billion boe by year-end, a Rystad Energy analysis reveals.
About 3.75 billion boe, or 46% of total discovered volumes, are gas while liquid volumes are estimated at 4.31 billion boe. Yet-uncounted resources in finds like Sakarya in Turkey point to the additional upside, meaning that 2020 will avoid returning to the multi-decade low seen in 2016 at just 7.7 billion boe.
The 73 new discoveries announced this year (through October) are evenly split between land and sea with 36 onshore and 37 offshore. Russia leads in terms of discovery volume, with 1.51 billion boe, while Suriname comes second with 1.39 billion boe and the UAE follows third with 1.1 billion boe.
Of the offshore volumes, which account for slightly over three-quarters of discovered resources, 33% was found in ultra-deep waters, 38% in deepwater areas, and 29% in shallow waters. Looking at the timing of the discoveries, the third quarter was the weakest with about 2 billion boe of new finds, compared to about 2.7 billion boe during each of the first two quarters.
Oil and gas companies exploration plans have included prospects with higher chances of success in mature areas, as well as high-risk, high-reward wildcats in frontier regions, resulting in some game-changing offshore discoveries. The willingness to invest in high-risk probes proves that E&P companies are not shying away from frontier basins if prospects are promising enough. Companies have experienced exploratory success in emerging plays in countries including Suriname, Guyana, South Africa, and Turkey, as well as in proven mature regions such as Brazil and Norway.
Ranking companies by discovered volumes shows that Russias Gazprom is in the lead, ahead of Total and Apache. The latter two have found around 960 million boe and 700 million boe respectively of net recoverable resources this year, mainly thanks to three major discoveries in Block 58 off the coast of Suriname.