Closing wells: Fossil development and abandonment in the energy transition

Inge van den Bijgaart, Mauricio Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite ambitious climate goals and already substantial stocks of developed fossil energy reserves, development of new fossil energy reserves continues to be high. This raises concerns, as it reinforces the fossil industry's opportunities and incentives to continue extraction, and may necessitate abandonment of developed fossil reserves to meet climate targets. In this paper, we analyze the energy transition, considering fossil development activities. We provide conditions for when the fossil industry will abandon reserves, and establish that continued development of fossil resources is not incompatible with abandoning developed reserves. The first-best implementation of a carbon budget involves reserve abandonment, and thus development that pushes developed reserves in excess of the remaining budget. A quantitative assessment reveals that a volume equal to 9–19% of current oil and gas reserves are optimally abandoned, and that, even under a 1.5C warming target, development of new reserves is justified for another decade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101387
JournalResource and Energy Economics
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics


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