Maximum likelihood estimates of the size distribution of North Sea oil fields

  • James L. Smith
  • Geoffrey L. Ward


Estimates of the ultimate resource potential of the North Sea petroleum province are derived from a probabilistic model of the discovery phenomenon. The discovery of individual fields are treated as sampling without replacement from a target population (the underlying resource base), and with individual discovery probabilities defined in terms of field size. Dependent on the underlying resource base, the model specifies the likelihood of all possible sequences of discoveries. Conversely, upon observing a particular discovery sequence, it is possible to identify the underlying resource base that maximizes the likelihood of this event. The present paper examines the sensitivity of such resource estimates to the postulated form of the size distribution of fields, and to the presumed degree of randomness inherent in the discovery process.

Key words

Resource potential maximum likelihood field size 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • James L. Smith
    • 1
  • Geoffrey L. Ward
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Energy LaboratoryMassachussetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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