Guyana and Suriname remain two major hotspots for exploration activity in 2021 with a number of key wells to watch as the Americas take the lead in the hunt for hydrocarbon resources this year.
Westwood Global Energy Group said in a new report published on Monday that current projections for 2021 suggest that activity should at least match the 70 wells in 2020 with the potential to be higher and up to 100.
“Drilling plans are still fluid and will firm up in Q1. Exploration hot spots for 2021 are mainly in the Americas, particularly offshore Mexico, the Suriname-Guyana Basin and offshore Brazil,” Westwood said.
Westwood highlighted 20 prospects in 2021 as ‘key wells to watch’ and these include Bulletwood-1 in the Canje Block offshore Guyana and Bonboni-1 located in Block 58 offshore neighbouring Suriname.
U.S oil major ExxonMobil began spudding Bulletwood-1 on December 31 targeting a potential 500-million-barrel oil equivalent resources, according to some estimates.
Bonboni is the fifth exploration well being targeted at Block 58 where Apache has already made 3 discoveries and results from the fourth well – Keskesi – is expected soon.
Of the twenty wells, Westwood said two are frontier basin tests which, if successful, can open multi-billion-barrel plays (Venus offshore Namibia, Perseverance offshore Bahamas). Seven are testing new plays in proven basins, or testing extensions of proven plays into deeper water that offer benefits of large volumes with follow on potential (e.g. Silverback in the GoM, Rencong in N Sumatra).
“Six are testing extensions to proven commercial deepwater plays with significant potential albeit at some risk (e.g. Ondjaba offshore Angola, Bulletwood offshore Guyana, Nemo offshore Brazil),” Westwood said, adding that five are large prospects in proven plays which will be high value if successful (e.g. Edinburgh offshore UK, Dan Day offshore Vietnam).
Westwood said an estimated ~26bnboe is being tested by 76 wells that are considered ‘probable’ in 2021, weighted 75:25 oil to gas. This drops to ~8bnboe split 65:35 oil to gas when the chance of success is considered, reflecting the higher risk nature of some of the oil prospects being targeted. As in previous years, Westwood said additional discoveries may be announced in countries where drilling plans are less transparent, especially in Russia and the Middle East.
“Total, Shell and Exxon are expected to be the most active high impact explorers in 2021,” Westwood said. “Total has the widest geographic spread with wells possible in more than 10 countries. Shell is expected to have a focus in Mexico, although is also planning two high impact wells in the UK and a frontier test in Sao Tome. Exxon is focused on just Brazil and Guyana, and CNOOC is focused on Guyana, Canada and Mexico.”
Previously active companies such as Repsol and Tullow have cut high impact drilling significantly in response to strategy changes, Westwood pointed out.
“High impact exploration may have taken a few hits in 2020 from the ravages of a global pandemic, a crash in the oil price and the acceleration of the energy transition, but in no way is the game over,” Westwood stated.
Of the 21 exploration wells drilled by Exxon offshore Guyana since 2015 (20 at Stabroek block and 1 at Kaieteur block) commercial discoveries have been made at 18, amounting to approximately 9 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources.