Fondren, Mark Edward (2013-08). Applying Calibration to Improve Uncertainty Assessment. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • Uncertainty has a large effect on projects in the oil and gas industry, because most aspects of project evaluation rely on estimates. Industry routinely underestimates uncertainty, often significantly. The tendency to underestimate uncertainty is nearly universal. The cost associated with underestimating uncertainty, or overconfidence, can be substantial. Studies have shown that moderate overconfidence and optimism can result in expected portfolio disappointment of more than 30%. It has been shown that uncertainty can be assessed more reliably through look-backs and calibration, i.e., comparing actual results to probabilistic predictions over time. While many recognize the importance of look-backs, calibration is seldom practiced in industry. I believe a primary reason for this is lack of systematic processes and software for calibration. The primary development of my research is a database application that provides a way to track probabilistic estimates and their reliability over time. The Brier score and its components, mainly calibration, are used for evaluating reliability. The system is general in the types of estimates and forecasts that it can monitor, including production, reserves, time, costs, and even quarterly earnings. Forecasts may be assessed visually, using calibration charts, and quantitatively, using the Brier score. The calibration information can be used to modify probabilistic estimation and forecasting processes as needed to be more reliable. Historical data may be used to externally adjust future forecasts so they are better calibrated. Three experiments with historical data sets of predicted vs. actual quantities, e.g., drilling costs and reserves, are presented and demonstrate that external adjustment of probabilistic forecasts improve future estimates. Consistent application of this approach and database application over time should improve probabilistic forecasts, resulting in improved company and industry performance.

publication date

  • August 2013