Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Wildcat Drilling


Wildcat drilling refers to the exploration of areas not yet known to hold oil, gas reserves, or any valuable minerals like gold. It’s considered a high-risk venture due to uncertainty of results and generally performed away from known fields. The term originates from the wildcat, a creature noted for its unpredictability, signifying the volatile nature of these drilling operations.


The phonetics for “Wildcat Drilling” are: “Wahyld-kat Dril-ing”.

Key Takeaways

  1. Wildcat drilling refers to the process of drilling for oil and gas in unexplored areas. It involves a large degree of risk due to the uncertainty of finding economically viable quantities of these resources.
  2. The main upside to wildcat drilling is the potential for significant returns if a large, untapped reserve of oil or gas is discovered. It provides an opportunity for energy companies to potentially make significant additions to their reserves.
  3. However, the high risk and cost associated with wildcat drilling deter some companies. The process involves not only the actual drilling costs, but also the cost of analysis and surveying. The failure rate is also high as not all wildcat wells will strike oil or gas.


Wildcat Drilling is a crucial term in business and finance, specifically within the oil and gas industry, as it refers to the exploration of new and untested areas for potential oil or gas reserves. This term signifies a high-risk, high-reward venture often carried out by companies willing to invest in potentially lucrative sites that have not yet been proven productive. Wildcat Drilling is important because it plays a key role in the discovery of new oil and gas fields, which can significantly contribute to a company’s growth or even alter the landscape of the energy industry. However, the high level of risk involved requires careful consideration of cost implications and thorough risk management strategies.


Wildcat Drilling, mainly practiced in the oil and gas industry, is a practice carried out with the intention of discovering large, untapped reserves of oil or natural gas. It essentially involves drilling in areas not known previously to hold oil or gas reserves and thus, it is often considered a high-risk, yet potentially high reward activity. The purpose of wildcat drilling is essentially to uncover and access previously undiscovered or unproved reserves, sometimes in remote and unexplored territories, as a means of significantly increasing resource availability and potential revenue for the drilling company.Primarily, wildcat drilling is used as a strategy by oil and gas exploration companies to boost their reserves and increase their potential profits. In essence, it expands the potential of the global oil and gas supply. This strategy requires significant capital expenditure and high levels of expertise to effectively manage the risk and uncertainty involved. Despite the high risk of non-productive outcomes, the success of wildcat drilling could mean significant production potential and economic reward. This, in turn, can lead to increased supply, price stability in the energy markets, and it helps meet energy demand more effectively. It also contributes to energy security and diversification.


1. Anadarko Petroleum: Back in 2006, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation was involved in wildcat drilling in the Gulf of Mexico’s deepwater region. The company chose to drill in an area called “Bob North” , which was expected to yield significant oil reserves. Despite the high costs and risks, this wildcat drilling operation proved successful, transforming Anadarko into one of the leading independent deepwater producers in the Gulf of Mexico.2. ExxonMobil in Guyana: ExxonMobil started wildcat drilling off the coast of Guyana in 2015. Initially, the investment was considered quite risky as the region’s oil potential was relatively unexplored. However, Exxon’s gamble paid off handsomely when they discovered a huge oil reservoir, which made the venture extremely profitable.3. TotalEnergies in South Africa: In 2020, French-based TotalEnergies commenced its wildcat drilling operation off the southern coast of South Africa in what was labeled as the Luiperd project. Before this, much of the region’s reserves were untouched, making it a perfect example of wildcat drilling. Early results indicated potential significant gas condensate discovers.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Wildcat Drilling?

Wildcat Drilling refers to the process of drilling for oil and gas in areas that are unproven or not known to be reliable sources. It is a high-risk, high-reward activity that is often undertaken by small or independent entities looking to strike it rich by finding a significant, untapped reservoir of resources.

Why is it called Wildcat Drilling?

The term originated from the unpredictable and risky nature of the drilling process that could be compared to the unpredictable traits of a wildcat. It highlights the gamble involved in looking for oil and gas in places that haven’t been proven to contain these resources.

What are the risks associated with Wildcat Drilling?

Wildcat Drilling comes with considerable financial risk. The drilling process can be costly, and there is no guarantee of striking oil or gas. The environmental impact could also be significant, leading to potential legal and cleanup costs.

What are the potential rewards of Wildcat Drilling?

If a significant deposit is found through Wildcat Drilling, the economic reward can be substantial. This could lead to profitability for the drilling companies and economic growth for the surrounding region.

Who typically undertakes Wildcat Drilling?

Typically, smaller, independent entities or entrepreneurs undertake Wildcat Drilling. These may include new companies formed specifically for exploration, or established firms that are willing to take on the risk for potential reward.

Are there any regulatory considerations for Wildcat Drilling?

Yes, Wildcat Drilling is subject to numerous environmental regulations due to its potential impact on the ecosystem. It’s important for any entity planning on undertaking such an activity to fully understand the regulatory landscape.

Can Wildcat Drilling contribute to energy independence?

Yes, successful Wildcat Drilling operations can contribute to a nation’s energy independence by discovering new oil and gas reserves, reducing reliance on imports.

What methods or technologies are used in Wildcat Drilling?

Advanced technologies like seismic surveys and magnetotellurics are often used to predict where oil or gas might be found before drilling. The actual drilling process involves a variety of drill bits and drilling methods, such as rotary drilling or directional drilling.

What impacts Wildcat Drilling on the local economy and community?

If successful, Wildcat Drilling can generate jobs and stimulate economic growth in the local community. However, if the drilling results in environmental impact, the community may face cleanup costs and potential damage to local ecosystems.

Related Finance Terms

  • Speculative Exploration: This term refers to a high-risk operation where oil and gas companies conduct explorations in areas that are not known to hold any oil or gas reserves.
  • Exploratory Well: Sometimes referred to as a “wildcat well” , this is a drill site in a location where no current oil or gas production exists.
  • Drilling Rig: The equipment used to create exploratory wells, such as the ones in wildcat drilling.
  • Hydrocarbon Prospecting: This term refers to the search process for potential underground or underwater oil and gas fields. This operation is associated with wildcat drilling.
  • Reserve Replacement Ratio (RRR): A measurement used by oil and gas companies to gauge their operating performance. Companies with high RRR are likely to conduct more wildcat drilling in their search for new reserves.

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More