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Relation of the Exploration of Petroleum to Reserves in the United States: Abstract
Regardless of past and present predictions of a forthcoming oil famine in the United States the outlook for our petroleum reserves is optimistic. Not only does our petroleum industry supply two-thirds of our peacetime energy requirements, but reserves are sufficient to support wartime needs.
The United States has been the world's principal producer of petroleum since 1896, except for a few short years. Maximum domestic production from 1859 to 1913 came successively from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and California. From 1914 to 1928 Oklahoma and California struggled for supremacy. Since 1928 Texas has been our principal producing state. California's rank as second largest producer is being threatened by rapid expansion of production in Louisiana. Except in 1955 Texas alone has produced more than 20 percent of the world's annual output since 1928.
The success of exploration efforts may be evaluated in several ways. From 1946 to 1953 the number of barrels of crude oil found for each discovery well ranged from 34,000 in Mississippi to 158,000 in Louisiana. Barrels of crude petroleum produced per foot of drilling in successful exploratory wells ranged from 5.3 in Mississippi to 26.1 in California. Net return from any discovery depends on drilling cost, leasing costs, local taxation, royalty payments, and the price of crude petroleum.
The typical production cycle in the United States shows spurts of high production for short periods, declining slowly thereafter over long periods. Expansions of the rate of discovery and production are generally coincident with new ideas applied to exploration. Such ideas range from the original concept of drilling near surface seeps to drilling guided by geophysical exploration. Periods of decreasing production and shrinking reserves are the periods that activate geological thinking.
The total reserves in the United States have more than doubled since 1936. Its world position in total reserves has dropped from first to second because of large discoveries in the Middle East. From 1936 to 1956 the ratio of reserves to annual production in the United States has ranged from 11.9 to 13.6, indicating balance between discovery rates and rates of consumption.
The exploration geologist has made these results possible. As a man of great energy he is also marked by an inquiring mind, with the ability to analyze, and criticize, and improve upon the methods, tools, and concepts at hand. The urge to find oil transcends all other considerations regarding his work.
Acknowledgments and Associated Footnotes
1 President, A.A.P.G., 1957-1958, Berkeley, California
Copyright © 2006 by the Tulsa Geological Society