When oil prices started falling last summer, Genel Energy GENL 13.53 % PLC, a small exploration company listed here, asked the government of Ethiopia to extend its exploration license, so it could put off drilling and save some cash. Across the industry, international wildcatters like Genel are renegotiating drilling commitments, selling off stakes in licenses and canceling plans to drill exploration wells—whatever it takes to pare back budgets that once hinged on expensive drilling programs. “When capital becomes very scarce, you end up having sensible discussions with governments about how to re-phase activity to reflect the realities of the day,” says Tony Hayward , former chief executive of BP BP 6.21 % PLC and now chairman of Genel. The move by these exploration companies reflects a much broader scramble by the industry—from the world’s biggest integrated oil companies […]