North Sea exploration applications up 50%

The United Kingdom’s latest offshore licensing round has attracted 36 applications covering 164 blocks in frontier areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), according to the UK’s Oil & Gas Authority (OGA).

Applications were received from 35 companies ranging from multinationals to microbusinesses.

The 31st Licensing Round, which closed on November 7, offered significant opportunities to acquire acreage across the UKCS’s extensive frontier areas including the Atlantic Margin, East Shetland Platform, Mid North Sea High and English Channel, with an aggregate area exceeding 370,000 km2.

The OGA will now commence its technical evaluation of applications, and intends to offer awards to successful applicants as early as possible during Q2 2019.

Nick Richardson, Head of Exploration and New Ventures at the OGA, said: “This is an encouraging set of applications, demonstrating that interest in UK offshore licensing opportunities has increased since the 29th frontier round held in 2016, with an almost 50% increase in the number of blocks applied for.

“The OGA has received applications on some blocks on the East Shetland Platform which have never been previously licenced, underlining the positive impact of ongoing Government-Funded data initiatives.

“The recent publication by the OGA of a comprehensive re-evaluation of the UKCS’s Yet-to-Find potential points towards an additional exploration resource base of 4.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent (Bboe) in prospects and leads and 11.2 Bboe in plays, largely in frontier areas, with a bias towards gas-rich opportunities.

“Whilst the UKCS offers a rich and attractive set of exploration and field development opportunities, the OGA continues to be concerned by low levels of drilling activity. We are encouraging industry to step up its efforts to explore for new resources, providing enhanced security of domestic supply in the future.”