The UK’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said it awarded 25 licences to 17 companies in the 29th Offshore Licensing Round to enable further exploration and production across “frontier” areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
This was the first licensing round in two decades 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.
OGA chief executive Andy Samuel 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 … 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.
“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.”
Mike Tholen, upstream policy director at trade body Oil & Gas UK, said: “We welcome today’s announcement by the Oil and Gas Authority that it is to award 25 licences to companies seeking to explore for oil and gas across frontier areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
“This round has the potential to open up new areas of the UKCS which have been under explored until now and the three firm commitment wells offered will help test the potential opportunities available.
“It is also pleasing to see three new companies enter the UK in this round which has been made possible by the new seismic across Rockall and Mid-North Sea High, funded by the government two years ago.
“Frontier exploration is a long game which will take time to deliver new oil and gas resources.
“Fiscal stability to drive investment in exploration will be a prerequisite in the years to come, and the industry will continue to build on the competitive improvements achieved over the last two years to make this a success.”