Unconventional resource plays (e.g., tight gas plays, coal-bed methane, etc.) play an increasing role in the global energy budget. Those in the United States have attracted a lot of attention and study in recent years, but for many of the international unconventional plays, information regarding likely production rates, ultimate recoveries, development costs, and the overall profitability of these plays is often exceedingly scarce. As such, companies interested in pursuing these plays must make decisions regarding what information to acquire. Seismic surveys, regional studies, exploration/appraisal wells, pilot programs, etc. – all are possible sources of data regarding the ultimate behavior of the reservoir. Unfortunately, all are possible wastes of money and manpower, too.

Maximizing the probability of financial success in these plays requires a thorough, consistent value-of-information (VOI) process. This paper presents an approach that emphasizes estimating the reliability of these information sources in a consistent way, including performing sensitivity analyses to see how the VOI changes by varying input parameters (including reliability).

Results can give the decision-maker confidence in the decision to acquire information (or not to do so), and yield insights into the overall profitability of the venture. They also highlight those uncertainties that merit further attention, versus those that can be ignored (or must simply be accepted) for the time being.

In the absence of VOI analyses, the value of highly uncertain opportunities can be grossly mis-estimated. Such analyses should play a key role in estimating the profitability of unconventional resource plays.

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