Despite conventional oil and gas exploration spend anticipated to top $50 billion for the first time since 2019, operators aren’t seeing expected results, Rystad Energy reports.

“Upstream companies are facing a period of uncertainty. They are eager to capitalize on the increased demand for fossil fuels and find additional resources, but recent results have been lackluster,” Aatisha Mahajan, vice president of upstream research at Rystad Energy said in a press release. “If exploration efforts continue to yield unimpressive results for the remainder of the year, 2023 could be a record-breaker for the wrong reasons.”

According to Rystad, explorers found 2.6 Bboe in the first half of 2023, 42% lower than the first half of 2022. So far, 55 discoveries have been made with discoveries averaging 47 MMboe — lower than the 56 MMboe per discovery for the same period in 2022.

The offshore industry accounted for about 95% of exploration spending year to date but only about two-thirds of discovered volumes. Offshore discoveries are spread relatively evenly between ultra-deepwater, deepwater and shelf finds. Rystad expects to see an increase in drilling activity for the remainder of 2023, with 27% projected growth in spud wells versus 2022.

Despite high impact wells only yielding a 31% success rate, majors are expected to continue to drive spending. Six companies are expected to spend $7 billion on exploration — a figure 10% higher than last year. Exploration activity will likely gain momentum in the second half of 2023, with crucial exploration wells planned to be drilled. Overall, Rystad forecasts that the majors will contribute 14% of total global exploration spending in the coming months.

Though exploration has not yielded the desired results, Rystad believes there is some success to be had this year, as only 30% of anticipated wells have been completed. Only 23 of a remaining 56 exploration wells have been or are expected to be drilled this year, meaning 60% are likely to be drilled or postponed until 2024. Even if 2023 proves unsuccessful, a rebound could be on the horizon for next year.