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Exploration strategies and tactics are dynamic, reacting and evolving in response to drilling success and failure, evolving technology, economic factors, infrastructure availability, and the type and perceived abundance of remaining opportunities. This paper addresses the transformation of one company’s approach to exploration in a mature province. In late 1992, Shell Offshore Incorporated implemented a new Gulf of Mexico shelf exploration strategy. The new “drill any profitable prospect” strategy replaced a strategy that emphasized finding the “big one.” One outcome of the new strategy is a larger drillsite portfolio that is more balanced with regard to risk and reward.

Two prospects offer insights into potential complications and challenges in the discovery appraisal process and the value of reservoir architecture models to successful appraisal. While the example prospects are illustrative of a slope depositional environment, the strategies and learnings themselves are independent of depositional environment and have business relevance to deltaic and non-marine exploration and development activities in diverse settings.

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