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Total exploratory drilling in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia decreased by 19.8% in 1981. A total of 333 tests was drilled compared with 415 in 1981, and 46 were successfully completed for a 13.8% success rate. New-field discoveries were the same as in 1981 with 40 completions, but the success rate of 12.2% was much better than the 9.8% in 1981. Mississippi was the most active state, with 249 exploratory tests and 24 of the new-field discoveries. Total drilling in the southeastern states, including both exploratory and development wells, was 855, compared to 971 in 1981, an 11.9% decrease.
The leading drilling trend was the shallow Eocene Wilcox in southwest Mississippi with 40.3% of the exploratory tests but only 6 new-field discoveries, both down from 1981. Drilling in the Jurassic trend accounted for 19.2% of the total tests and 8 new-field discoveries. Drilling decreased in the Paleozoic trend of northeast Mississippi and northwest Alabama where 16.2% of the tests were drilled. However, this was the most successful trend with 16 new-field discoveries for a 29.6% success rate. Exploration was down slightly in the Lower Cretaceous trend where 11.4% of the tests were drilled and 5 new-field discoveries were completed. Drilling was constant in the Upper Cretaceous and Miocene trends with 8.1% and 4.8% of total exploratory tests. Two new-field discoveries were reported i the Upper Cretaceous and 3 in the Miocene.
A continued decrease in exploratory drilling is predicted for 1983. Operators will be more efficient, however, and success rates for new fields should improve. Deep exploration in the 15,000 to 20,000-ft natural gas trends will reach a low point because of economic conditions, and operators will emphasize drilling for shallower prospects. Acreage available for leasing should increase by late 1983, and progressive operators will assemble blocks for future exploration. Turnkey drilling will be available in all depth ranges, and oil field services in general will be more efficient and competitive. Seismic activity should improve by late 1983 as operators increase prospect generation for the future. As usual, most of the exploratory drilling will be conducted by independents and smaller c mpanies, but the majors will be more active, particularly in leasing and seismic exploration, as they look toward the future.
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