Phases of petroleum exploration and production

Prospecting and exploration activities aim to identify the location and size of petroleum fields and whether extracting the resource is likely to be profitable.

The progression from prospecting, to exploration and possibly to mining can take decades and a range of regulators are involved at various stages. Depending on the activity and location this can include:

The regulatory system is designed to ensure that petroleum development is undertaken safely and responsible throughout the lifecycle of the operation.


Prospecting is the very first stage in the search for oil and gas fields. Prospecting activities tend to cover large areas in an attempt to see if petroleum accumulations might be present.


The goal of petroleum exploration is to identify areas with the right geologic conditions for a profitable accumulation of petroleum.


If a resource discovered during exploration is considered commercially viable, petroleum operators will begin the process to commercially extract oil and gas.