This circular presents a summary of the geographic
location, amount, and results of petroleum exploration, including an atlas showing explored and delineated prospective areas through 1990. The data show that wildcat well drilling has continued through the last decade to expand the prospective area by about 40,000 to 50,000 square miles per year. However, the area delineated by 1970, which represents only about one-third of the prospective area delineated to date, contains about 80 percent of the oil discovered to date. This discovery distribution suggests that, from an overall prospective, the industry was successful in delineating the most productive areas early. The price increases of the 1970's and 1980's allowed the commercial exploration and development of fields in high-cost areas, such as the North Sea and Campos Basin, Brazil. Data on natural-gas discoveries also indicate that gas will be supplying an increasing share of the worldwide energy market.
The size distribution of petroleum provinces is highly skewed. The skewed distribution and the stability in province size orderings suggest that intense exploration in identified provinces will not change the distribution of oil within the study area. Although evidence of the field-growth phenomenon outside the United States and Canada is presented, the data are not yet reliable enough for projecting future growth. The field-growth phenomenon implies not only that recent discoveries are substantially understated, but that field growth could become the dominant source of additions to proved reserves in the future.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Statistics of petroleum exploration in the Caribbean, Latin America, Western Europe, the Middle East, Africa, non-communist Asia, and the southwestern Pacific
U.S. G.P.O. ;
Free on application to U.S. Geological Survey, Map Distribution,