A probabilistic model for oil exploration can be developed by assessing the conditional relationship between perceived geologic variables and the subsequent discovery of petroleum. Such a model includes two probabilistic components, the first reflecting the association between a geologic condition (structural closure, for example) and the occurrence of oil, and the second reflecting the uncertainty associated with the estimation of geologic variables in areas of limited control. Estimates of the conditional relationship between geologic variables and subsequent production can be found by analyzing the exploration history of a "training area" judged to be geologically similar to the exploration area. The geologic variables are assessed over the training area using an historical subset of the available data, whose density corresponds to the present control density in the exploration area. The success or failure of wells drilled in the training area subsequent to the time corresponding to the historical subset provides empirical estimates of the probability of success conditional upon geology. Uncertainty in perception of geological conditions may be estimated from the distribution of errors made in geologic assessment using the historical subset of control wells. These errors may be expressed as a linear function of distance from available control. Alternatively, the uncertainty may be found by calculating the semivariogram of the geologic variables used in the analysis: the two procedures will yield approximately equivalent results. The empirical probability functions may then be transferred to the exploration area and used to estimate the likelihood of success of specific exploration plays. These estimates will reflect both the conditional relationship between the geological variables used to guide exploration and the uncertainty resulting from lack of control. The technique is illustrated with case histories from the mid-Continent area of the U.S.A. ?? 1977 Plenum Publishing Corp.