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    Americas to Lead in High Impact Exploration in 2021: Westwood


High-impact drilling plans are fluid this year, but the number of wells should be in line with the amount last year, or see as much as a 40% increase.

by: Joe Murphy

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Americas to Lead in High Impact Exploration in 2021: Westwood

The main hot spots for high-impact exploration drilling will be in the Americas in 2021, UK consultancy Westwood Global Energy Group said in research published on January 11.

High-impact exploration aims to find significant volumes of hydrocarbons or open new frontier areas. Drilling plans are still fluid but Westwood expects between 70 and 100 high-impact wells to be drilled this year, versus 72 in 2020 and 99 in 2019. The consultancy pointed to offshore Mexico, the Suriname-Guyana basin and offshore Brazil as the main focuses of activity.

Africa will see another quiet year with only a handful of high-impact wells drilled, Westwood said, although one of them is at the highly anticipated multi-billion barrel Venus prospect in Namibia. Northwest Europe should see 10-15 high-impact wells, which is a similar number to last year.

High-impact exploration started well last year, with the highest number of wells recorded in the first three months of 2020 since the fourth quarter of 2014. But the pandemic, a subsequent oil price crash and continuing efforts to accelerate the energy transition went on to create "a perfect storm" for high-impact exploration later in the year. Only seven wells were completed in Q3 2020, which Westwood said was the lowest quarterly number since its records began in 2008.

The three largest discoveries of 2020 were all claimed by Russian state firm Rosneft in the Kara Sea and West Siberia, with Russia accounting for around 70% of discovered volumes. The company reported a pair of gas discoveries in the Kara Sea in December near its 2014 Pobeda oil find, estimating their combined size at over 1.3 trillion m3.

As for 2021, Westwood estimates that the 76 wells it considers will likely be drilled in the year are targeting 26bn barrels of oil equivalent, with a 75 to 25 ratio between oil and gas. Factoring in the odds of success, though, the volume drops to 8bn boe, with a 65 to 35 split between oil and gas. Total, Shell and ExxonMobil are set to be the most active high-impact drillers in 2021.