Analysis of the rate of wildcat drilling and deposit discovery

  • Lawrence J. Drew


The rate at which petroleum deposits were discovered during a 16-yr period (1957–72) was examined in relation to changes in a suite of economic and physical variables. The study area encompasses 11,000 mi2 and is located on the eastern flank of the Powder River Basin. A two-stage multiple-regression model was used as a basis for this analysis. The variables employed in this model were: (1) the yearly wildcat drilling rate, (2) a measure of the extent of the physical exhaustion of the resource base of the region, (3) a proxy for the discovery expectation of the exploration operators active in the region, (4) an exploration price/cost ratio, and (5) the expected depths of the exploration targets sought. The rate at which wildcat wells were drilled was strongly correlated with the discovery expectation of the exploration operators. Small additional variations in the wildcat drilling rate were explained by the price/cost ratio and target-depth variables. The number of deposits discovered each year was highly dependent on the wildcat drilling rate, but the aggregate quantity of petroleum discovered each year was independent of the wildcat drilling rate. The independence between these last two variables is a consequence of the cyclical behavior of the exploration play mechanism. Although the discovery success ratio declined sharply during the initial phases of the two exploration plays which developed in the study area, a learning effect occurred whereby the discovery success ratio improved steadily with the passage of time during both exploration plays.

Key words

exploration play petroleum exploration regression analysis 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence J. Drew
    • 1
  1. 1.Office of Resource AnalysisU.S. Geological SurveyRestonUSA

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