The process of exploration planning in the oil and gas industry has historically been time-consuming and inefficient with limited information and large uncertainties to contend with. How does an oil and gas company take a set of exploration opportunities stored in disparate systems across the organization and combine them into a single, optimized forward exploration plan? This paper will examine the current industry processes in exploration planning and compare these with the benefits of an integrated solution with direct links from the subsurface to commercial to identify and track key parameters over time for business planning decision making.

This paper will first discuss the industry challenges and current practices in exploration planning. The proposed solution will then be defined as a shared repository of opportunities, consistent capture and quantification of subsurface risk and uncertainty linked with the quantification of potential hydrocarbon recoverable ranges, economic analysis across different fiscal regimes and stochastic portfolio optimization. The paper will then look at optimizing a sample set of exploration opportunities and examine the results and benefits gained after deployment at an integrated national oil company.

The integration of risk and uncertainty from the reservoir properties through to stochastic portfolio optimization based on project timing and working interest is a unique solution compared to the "siloed" and disconnected approach common in the industry. During this project, a shared understanding of risk and uncertainty from the subsurface through to the economic evaluation was observed throughout the asset teams and planners.

The implementation and execution of the proposed solution improved the efficiency of the exploration decision-making process and the management of the company’s exploration portfolio. Integrated exploration planning leads to significant improved overall portfolio revenue at reduced risk and costs. The proposed solution is applicable to any mid- to large-sized oil and gas company with a number of exploration opportunities to choose from for inclusion in their portfolio.

The solution’s value lies in the consistent approach to directly link key risks and uncertainties in the subsurface properties of the reservoir all the way through to the commercial evaluation of a portfolio of exploration opportunities. The result of this approach is optimal decision making and increased efficiencies in exploration business planning due to more thorough understanding and mitigation of key risks and uncertainties affecting the success of exploration opportunities.

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