Market Speaks: Global Oil Companies Increasing Their E&D Budgets, Reserves Additions Set To Rise

Oil companies proved reserves additions in 2017 were most since 2013, noted the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) in a latest update. In 2017, a group of the world’s largest publicly traded oil and natural gas producers added more hydrocarbons to their resource base than in any year since 2013, according to the annual reports of 83 exploration and production companies. Collectively, these companies added a net 8.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) to their proved reserves during 2017, which totaled 277 billion BOE at the end of the year. Exploration and development (E&D) spending in 2017 increased 11% from 2016 levels, but remained 47% lower than 2013 levels.

Of the 83 companies, 18 held more than 80% of the 277 billion BOE in proved reserves at the end of 2017. While many of these companies have global operations, some are national oil companies with reserves concentrated in their home countries including Russia, China, and Brazil. Proved reserves change from year to year because of revisions to existing reserves, extensions and discoveries of new resources, purchases and sales of proved reserves, and production.

Because of a disparity between the timing of companies’ capital expenditures and the formal reporting of changes to their proved reserves, standard practice is to average the results over several years. Analyzed this way, E&D costs declined significantly on a per BOE basis from the 2012–2014 average to the 2015–2017 average. Three-year average E&D capital expenditures per BOE of organic proved reserves additions decreased in all regions except Latin America.

On an annual basis, 2017 represented the lowest E&D capital expenditures per additional BOE to proved reserves during the 2012–2017 period at $ 16.12/BOE. First quarter 2018 capital expenditures for this set of companies were 16% higher than the first quarter of 2017, suggesting that many of these companies have increased their E&D budgets, which will likely contribute to further organic proved reserves additions in 2018.