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Probability elicitation using geostatistics in hydrocarbon exploration


The exploratory phase of a hydrocarbon field is a period when decision-supporting information is scarce while the drilling stakes are high. Each new prospect drilled brings more knowledge about the area and might reveal reserves, hence choosing such prospect is essential for value creation. Drilling decisions must be made under uncertainty as the available geological information is limited and probability elicitation from geoscience experts is key in this process. This work proposes a novel use of geostatistics to help experts elicit geological probabilities more objectively, especially useful during the exploratory phase. The approach is simpler, more consistent with geologic knowledge, more comfortable for geoscientists to use and, more comprehensive for decision-makers to follow when compared to traditional methods. It is also flexible by working with any amount and type of information available. The workflow takes as input conceptual models describing the geology and uses geostatistics to generate spatial variability of geological properties in the vicinity of potential drilling prospects. The output is stochastic realizations which are processed into a joint probability distribution (JPD) containing all conditional probabilities of the process. Input models are interactively changed until the JPD satisfactory represents the expert’s beliefs. A 2D, yet realistic, implementation of the workflow is used as a proof of concept, demonstrating that even simple modeling might suffice for decision-making support. Derivative versions of the JPD are created and their effect on the decision process of selecting the drilling sequence is assessed. The findings from the method application suggest ways to define the input parameters by observing how they affect the JPD and the decision process.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available in Morosov, Andre Luis (2021), “Dataset Used in the Article: Probability Elicitation Using Geostatistics in Hydrocarbon Exploration”, Mendeley Data, V1, doi:


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The authors acknowledge the Research Council of Norway and the industry partners – ConocoPhillips Skandinavia AS, Aker BP ASA, Eni Norge AS, Total E&P Norge AS, Equinor ASA, Neptune Energy Norge AS, Lundin Norway AS, Halliburton AS, Schlumberger Norge AS, Wintershall Norge AS, and DEA Norge AS – of The National IOR Centre of Norway for support. Also, the authors acknowledge Nicolas Remy and Alexandre Boucher for the SGeMS software, and Jianbing Wu and Lei Xu for the freely available CTGAN Python code.


Open access funding provided by University Of Stavanger.

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Correspondence to André Luís Morosov.

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Morosov, A.L., Bratvold, R.B. Probability elicitation using geostatistics in hydrocarbon exploration. Comput Geosci 25, 2109–2130 (2021).

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  • Probability elicitation
  • Geostatistics
  • Multiple-prospect exploration
  • Sequential decisions