A total of 17 companies have won 25 oil and gas drilling licences in 111 blocks in the latest N. Sea licensing round to boost exploration and production in frontier areas.
This latest, 29th licensing round was the first British licensing round in more than 20 years to focus solely on frontier, under-explored areas of the Rockall Basin, Mid-North Sea High, and part of the East Shetland Platform.
It attracted applications from 24 companies for 113 blocks when it closed in October 2016.
The announcement by the Aberdeen-based Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) follows a decision by Norway’s oil regulator to open up exploration licences for frontier oilfields in the Barents Sea.
Andy Samuel, OGA Chief Executive, said: “The £20 million investment in new seismic for the Rockall and Mid-North Sea High areas, subsequent release of 40,000 kilometres of new and reprocessed data, combined with the work of the MER UK Exploration Task Force in developing the Innovate Licence, and a stable and competitive fiscal regime has resulted in a number of quality applications in this frontier licensing round.
“We are particularly pleased to see firm well commitments, the targeting of new and under-explored plays, and first-time entrants to the basin, alongside a number of established companies, which will help stimulate further activity and value creation.
“While exploration activity has undoubtedly suffered as a result of the difficult market conditions, we are now seeing highly encouraging success rates and finding costs on the UKCS. This is testament to the value of a robust and focused exploration strategy with commitment from industry, government and the OGA.
“All applicants were screened for financial capacity (as well as technical, safety and environmental capability), and all those recommended for the offer of an award appear to have sufficient financial backing for the commitments they would be taking on.
“Meanwhile, the upcoming 30th offshore licensing round will focus on mature areas and is expected to be the most significant offshore round in recent decades. An extensive number of prospects and undeveloped discoveries will be on offer.”
The 30th round is likely to be announced during Summer 2017, and will be open for 120 days.