The U.K. Is About To Boost Oil Exploration With An Old Trick

March 2016, Vol. 243, No. 3

In 2000, Canadian miner Goldcorp changed its fortunes through a unique strategy: giving away its proprietary technical data.

Dubbed the “Goldcorp Challenge”, the firm made all of its geological information available to the public. And offered $575,000 in prize money to geologists who could use the data to tell the company where to find the next big discovery on the company’s gold property in Ontario — a move that ultimately led to $6 billion in new gold resources being discovered.

And this week, one of the world’s go-to oil and gas nations said it is trying something similar to reboot exploration.

That’s the U.K. Where the country’s Oil and Gas Authority said yesterday it will make all data on the North Sea freely available for the first time ever.

The Authority said that as of the end of March, it will post its complete data set online. With the package consisting of 40,000 kilometers of new and reprocessed seismic, as well as gravity and magnetic data — and all government-held well information.

The stated aim of this move is to generate new play ideas across this mature area — with officials saying they hope the open data will serve in “revitalizing exploration of the basin”.

And data isn’t the only thing the U.K. is offering. Like Goldcorp, the country is also putting up cash rewards.

The Oil and Gas Authority said it will offer 500,000 pounds ($715,000) in prize money to individuals who come up with “innovative interpretations and products” based on the technical data. With officials saying they hope the competition will particularly increase understanding of plays in frontier areas of the offshore.

All of which is intended to generate buzz ahead of the country’s 29th Seaward Licensing Round. And hopefully lead to increased bidding on license areas as part of that event. Keep an eye out for announcements from the Oil and Gas Authority on the results.

Here’s to giving it away.

By Dave Forest,

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