Differences Between Successful Efforts and Full Cost Methods

Lecture (07) The Successful Efforts vs Full Cost Accounting by Mohamed Zakaria

What is the full cost method of accounting?

Oil and gas producers use the full cost method of accounting to record all costs associated with drilling and producing wells, even if they are unsuccessful. These companies don’t immediately report a failed well as a loss when using this accounting method. Instead, they consider abandoned wells to be productive assets and report on their financial depreciation as if they were a valuable asset. By capitalizing on the cost over time rather than at the next reporting period, this technique enables businesses to reduce the immediate financial impact of a failed venture.

According to the full cost method of accounting’s underlying ideology, finding and exploring these natural resources is the main business of natural gas and oil companies. According to this interpretation, businesses using the full cost method treat unsuccessful wells as a step in the process of finding profitable assets. They essentially include the price of excavating unsuccessful mines in the process of finding profitable ones. By using this technique, they are able to report the assets’ depreciation over time rather than all at once.

What is the successful efforts method of accounting?

Companies can only capitalize on costs associated with the successful discovery of natural gas and oil reserves using the successful efforts method of accounting. With this approach, a business cannot profit from resources it spends time, money, or resources on in vain attempts to find these resources. This approach has the result that these businesses’ net income for that time period is more significantly impacted when they are unsuccessful in their discovery.

According to the successful efforts method of accounting’s ideology, producing and refining these natural resources is what natural gas and oil companies do best. Consequently, a company should report an activity in a way that has a negative impact on its gross income when it uses its resources but is unable to produce. Wells that produce oil and gas are typically regarded as productive assets, or assets that are creating value, by natural gas and oil companies. The business is unable to classify a well as productive when it is dug but does not ultimately produce value.

Successful efforts method vs. full cost method: key differences

Despite the fact that both the successful efforts method and the full cost method are used by gas and oil companies to report their revenues, there are some significant differences between the two. Which accounting method represents a more transparent approach is generally a point of contention among the governing accounting bodies that oversee the industry. Different businesses may choose the strategy that seems advantageous to them because there is no set rule on what approach a company must use.

The successful efforts method of accounting differs significantly from the full cost method:

Regulating bodies

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are the two regulatory bodies that oversee the accounting of natural gas and oil companies. The Financial Accounting Standards Board directs businesses to report on company activity using the successful efforts method of accounting because it believes this method to be the more transparent one. Companies are permitted by the Securities and Exchange Commission to employ the full cost method.

Although the SEC does not support either approach, allowing businesses to make their own decisions encourages research into which approach gives a company the appearance of being more successful. Companies that have been unsuccessful in their discovery frequently choose to use the full cost method of accounting, whereas many companies choose to comply with the Accounting Standards Board’s requirement by using the successful efforts method. Companies typically select the course of action that benefits them because there is no clear rule between the two regulatory bodies.

Income reporting

How businesses report their income is the main distinction between the successful efforts and full cost methods of accounting. When a business owns a productive asset like a farm, natural gas reserve, or oil well, it only records the asset’s depreciation against its net income. Because the cost is compared to the asset’s value, the impact of constructing an expensive asset, like an oil well, is lessened on a financial statement.

The successful efforts method prohibits businesses from reporting unsuccessful wells as productive assets. Therefore, a business reports the money it spends to build a well or dig a hole as an expense rather than an asset. This reporting method has a greater impact on a company’s income because the money spent is subtracted from the net income. Even though failed wells don’t produce anything, businesses can still classify them as productive assets thanks to the full cost method of accounting. Many businesses benefit from this approach because it increases the amount of income they can report.


The lack of transparency into a company’s operations is one of the main arguments against either reporting method. Investors and stockholders want to know whether a natural gas or oil company is making money from its operations. When businesses can report nonproductive assets as expenditures rather than costs, according to opponents of the full cost method of accounting, they are not accurately portraying the value of a company’s assets, they claim.

Successful efforts method of accounting detractors contend that the full cost method is more transparent because it provides a more comprehensive picture of business operations. The full cost method enables businesses to disclose unsuccessful wells as a step in the process that results in successful wells. This approach assumes that businesses must take risks in order to dig, and that a risk that doesn’t pay off can still yield information that eventually results in success.

Stock price

Stock prices of publicly traded companies are typically impacted when the company releases reports on its earnings. The SEC permits businesses to report a higher income than those that use the successful efforts method of accounting by allowing them to use the full cost method of accounting. Because of this distinction, knowledgeable investors frequently look into the methodology a company uses to report profits.

Even though an income sheet from a company using the full cost method and one from a company using the successful efforts method both report on the same amount of income, most investors would value the successful efforts sheet more. Investors are aware that the successful efforts method is more stringent in terms of what companies can report as assets, so it is less likely that they will report failed wells as productive assets.

Please note that Indeed is not affiliated with any of the businesses mentioned in this article.


What is the difference between successful effort method and full cost method?

A company can only claim the costs linked to successfully discovering new oil and natural gas reserves under successful-efforts accounting. Regardless of the results, full-cost accounting enables businesses to capitalize on all operating costs associated with finding new oil and gas reserves.

What is the successful efforts method?

The successful efforts method, which requires immediate charges to expense when a “dry hole” is drilled, is a conservative approach to oil and gas accounting. As a result, expense recognition is accelerated, and the balance sheet only records the smallest amount of expenditures as assets.

What are the two methods of accounting for exploration cost?

There are two ways to calculate the price of exploration and assessment. These methods are cost method and the revaluation method.

What is the full cost approach?

The oil and gas sector uses the full cost method of cost accounting. This approach capitalizes all property acquisition, exploration, and development costs into a national cost pool. Whether a well is considered successful or not, this capitalization takes place.

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