A combination of higher crude prices, lower costs and less competition means the time is right for oil firms to go exploring, a new report said.
Westwood Global Energy Group’s study showed global exploration drilling will increase by 12% this year.
Around 60 high impact wells will be drilled between now and the end of 2018, focusing on the Atlantic margins, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Last year, exploration drilling performance was strong with discovered volumes more than double the level achieved in 2016.
Commercial success rates rose to a record high of 47%, Westwood said in its ninth annual State of Exploration Report .
Success rates were driven by near-field drilling in lower risk mature plays onshore Colombia and Australia.
Volumes were boosted by a few large discoveries, primarily in emerging deep water plays such as Guyana and Senegal.
Success in frontier exploration has been elusive and effective high grading of frontier opportunities has not been evident in drilling results.
There was no significant frontier discovery in the 39 attempts since Zohr in mid-2015, with Guyana emerging as the biggest new oil province since the Brazil pre-salt.
Keith Myers, president of research at Westwood Global, said: “With higher oil prices, improving exploration performance, and the cost of exploration falling more than 50% since 2013/14 plus fewer companies competing for acreage it could be argued that there has not been a better time to be exploring in the last decade.”
“But there are challenges too with frontier success rates remaining stubbornly low and new oil plays continuing to be elusive. The focus continues to be on deep and ultra-deep water for high impact discoveries”