The UK government, through its newly created regulatory body, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), has awarded licences in one of the biggest rounds to be held in the UK in decades.
The OGA, today, made awards for a further 41 new offshore exploration licences in what was the UK’s 28th offshore licensing round since its first back in 1964.
The initial awards from the round were made back on 6th November 2014, however the OGA took until now to consider additional information, including environmental assessments, before awarding the remaining 41 licences.
In total, the licences amounted to 175, and spanned across a total of 353 blocks of the UK continental shelf, making it one of the UK’s biggest offshore oil and gas licensing rounds in 50 years.
Whilst the majority of licenses were for blocks in the UK’s North Sea, a growing trend in the round was to see more competition and activity in the West of Shetland area of the UKCS, where BP in particular took the majority. There was also a handful of licenses being awarded for the area running between Ireland and Wales, known as the Wester approaches.
However, behind the initial headlines the finer detail shows not much to get excited about.
The licenses awarded revealed little to no commitment to conduct any offshore exploratory drilling, with the majority of licenses only requiring the holders to conduct offshore seismic operations.
Oil and Gas Authority Chief Executive, Andy Samuel, said: “Licences are however just a start and industry, government and the OGA now need to work together to revitalise exploration activity across the basin and convert licences into successful exploration wells.”
UK Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, said: “We are backing our oil and gas industry which supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK. The 28th offshore licensing round comes after the Government announced a major package of support in March to encourage £4 billion of additional investment in the North Sea which will prolong the life of this vital industry.”