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What happens to returns when explorers move to gas?

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What’s the key takeaway from this report?

Gas will be key for future exploration. But while it holds many attractions over oil, its returns are weaker.

We assess what will shape the adoption of gas, and what this will mean for full-cycle economics.

Why buy this report?

  • Understand what the shift to gas means for exploration returns
  • Get a detailed comparison of the numbers: how does gas stack up against oil?
  • Explore our ideas on what strategies explorers can use to drive higher returns


This report explores the broader theme of what role the exploration industry will play as the energy transition takes long-term oil growth off the agenda. Get our thoughts on the industry issues that matter.

Future exploration will feature more gas. Its already matching oil volumes in new discoveries and could go higher as demand grows through the energy transition. Gas holds many attractions over oil: carbon footprints are smaller and upstream costs less than half. The problem is lower value. We calculate new gas fields are worth just 38% of their oil equivalents as lower prices and longer timescales take their toll. What does this mean for full-cycle economics?

Table of contents

    • Explorers face growing reliance on gas
    • Gas is cheaper to find and develop
    • But gas has much lower value
    • Domestic gas is advantaged over export gas
    • Exploration strategies will adapt for gas – sooner or later

Tables and charts

This report includes 7 images and tables including:

  • New field discovery volumes 2009-2018
  • Commerciality of oil and gas discoveries
  • Development value of discoveries 2009-2018
  • Unit development value of discoveries
  • Unit value of discoveries by market type
  • Unit value of discoveries by water depth
  • Largest gas exploration countries by principal market type

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    What happens to returns when explorers move to gas?

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