Uncovering Influences on the Form of Oil and Gas Field Size Distributions

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A detailed understanding of the processes that led to empirical oil and gas field size distributions, especially the dynamic character of the discovery process, is needed to improve the quality of forecasts of oil and gas resources. An empirical distribution results from a complex interaction of economic, technical, and social factors with geology in the form of a distribution of deposits. These factors may cause an empirical distribution to mutate nonrandomly through time. Changes in the price of oil, the cost of exploration and development, technology, and access to prospects influence the discovery process. Failure to recognize and account for them in the modeling process can result in serious bias in estimates of the number and volume of future discoveries. In addition, the broad range of some forecasts for a given region may be explained by differences in perspective of those involved in the process. Geologists who understand the basic processes and collect the data may be scientific determinists. Statisticians who model and analyze the data are trained to think in terms of random variables and stochastic processes.

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