The traditional approach to the planning of exploration programs does notprovide for the characterization of the inherent uncertainties of explorationor the consideration of the many complex interactions between events. Thispaper proposes a simulation approach to exploration planning which is based onan "Information-Scientific Reasoning" approach to the planning process ascontrasted with the traditional "Experience-Inductive Reasoning" approach. Theexploration system is defined in a manner suitable for simulation. Theexpansion of the system to include the features of a corporate system ispresented. A discussion of the various methods of characterizing theuncertainty associated with the factors is included and the modeling of thetotal system described. The proposed approach provides a planning concept whichmeets the following objectives:

  1. Consider the many factors affecting exploration results.

  2. Systematically analyze, evaluate and test the factors.

  3. Analyze the complex interactions between the various factors.

  4. Place events and results in a time frame.

  5. Provide a means of evaluating critical "What If" decisions and resourceallocations.

  6. Characterize the uncertainty associated with exploration.


The planning process in most cases, generally involves the breaking down of atask into a sequence of individual activities. The process then becomesconcerned with making estimates of time, costs, materials and manpowerrequirements for each activity. These elements can then be combined in variousforms to provide the overall plan. In most cases this approach isstraightforward as is the objective for which the plan is developed such as thedrilling of a well or development of a field.

Consider what is involved if the problem of planning an exploration program isundertaken. Given a fixed budget one could easily develop detailed plansdefining exactly how the money should be spent over any reasonable period oftime. Funds could be allocated to activities such as seismic, subsurfacegeological studies, acquisition of records, the drilling of stratigraphictests, acquisition of drilling prospects and the actual drilling of prospects. Following such an approach, one can be almost certain that at the end of thetime period the allocated money would have been spent.

What about the results of the exploration effort? The objective may have beenaccomplished; that is, if the objective was spending the allocated funds. However, the objective of an exploration program should not be to spend a givenamount of money, but to discover oil and gas at a profit.

Restating the objective as finding hydrocarbon reserves, or some otherresult-oriented parameter, the planning process must be reconsidered. Theoriginal approach could not provide any reasonable assurance of findinghydrocarbon reserves or the accomplishment of other such goals.

The objective now being stated in terms of finding hydrocarbon reserves orother result oriented parameters, the problem now becomes one of resolvingquestions such as:

  1. What level of activity is required to find a given quantity of oil?

  2. What is the average field size that will be found?

  3. What is the average field size that will be found?

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