Total exploratory drilling in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia increased by 9.1% from 1979. A total of 373 tests were drilled, compared to 342 in 1979, but new field discoveries decreased 31.8%, from 44 to 30. The new field success rate was 8.7%, compared to 14.2% in 1979. Mississippi was the most active state, with 286 exploratory tests and 22 of the new field discoveries. Total drilling in the southeastern states, including both exploratory and development wells, was 827, compared to 780 in 1979, a 6.0% increase.

The shallow Eocene Wilcox trend of southwestern Mississippi was the leading drilling area, with 45.0% of the exploratory tests and 10 of the new field discoveries. Drilling declined in the Jurassic and Paleozoic trends, where 16.9% and 16.1% of the tests were drilled, respectively. Exploration was up slightly in the Lower Cretaceous and Upper Cretaceous trends, with 13.1% and 6.7% of the drilling, respectively. Shallow Miocene drilling in southwestern Alabama accounted for the remaining 2.1%.

A modest increase in exploratory drilling will occur in 1981, with most of the activity again in the shallow Wilcox trend. Acreage for leasing will be scarce, and top leasing may become more prevalent. Deep drilling rigs and certain size tubular goods will be difficult to obtain unless plans and commitments are made well in advance of drilling. As usual, most of the exploratory drilling will be conducted by independents and smaller companies, but the majors will be more active, especially in the ultra-deep areas.

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