68 companies apply for latest offshore licensing round

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The United Kingdom’s latest offshore licensing round has attracted 96 applications covering 239 blocks in the main oil and gas producing areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

Applications were received from 68 companies ranging from multinationals to new country entrants.

The 30th Licensing Round, which closed on Tuesday 21st November, offered significant opportunities to acquire acreage in the UKCS’s main basins, including the Southern, Central and Northern North Sea, the West of Shetland and East Irish Sea, with an aggregate area totalling 114,426 km2 (28,275,280 acres).

The acreage offer featured a large inventory of prospects and undeveloped discoveries, and to support industry in unlocking these opportunities, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) openly provided several digital data packages, and co-hosted a technology event with the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC). Applicants applied using the new Innovate Licence, developed by the OGA in collaboration with industry. The OGA intends to offer awards to successful applicants during Q2 2018.

Nick Richardson, Head of Exploration and New Ventures at the OGA, said: “Despite the difficult economic environment, industry has responded strongly to this round, confirming the high remaining potential of the UKCS. The focus on regions with existing infrastructure provided companies with an excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at a large inventory of opportunities from which to rebuild their portfolios to help sustain future production.

“Efforts by the OGA to provide new data, analysis and insights has stimulated a number of high quality applications. Together with the added advantages of flexible licensing, technology development and improvements to the oil and gas fiscal regime, this has evidently created the right conditions to support continued investment in the UKCS.”

Oil & Gas UK’s upstream policy director Mike Tholen said: “With 68 companies bidding, many of which we know to be new entrants, this response can be viewed as a vote of confidence in the UK Continental Shelf.

“It offers early signs that the £8bn of merger and acquisition activity highlighted in our Economic Report is translating into activity in the basin. This will help realise as much of the 2-6 billion barrels of yet to find potential, particularly given the maturity of this licensing round and its large inventory of prospects and undeveloped discoveries.

“Whilst this reflects industry’s growing optimism, our interests now turn to how many awards will be given, and the commitments which follow.”

Attention will now turn to the 31st Round, scheduled to be launched in mid-2018, which will provide high-impact exploration opportunities in under-explored areas of the UKCS. To support the next licensing round, the OGA will release the results of the 2016 Government-Funded Seismic Programme next Monday (27th November). Almost 19,000 km of newly-acquired, broadband seismic data will be made freely available, together with approximately 23,000 km of reprocessed legacy seismic data and well data packages.

The data covers the East Shetland Platform, North West Scotland, South West Approaches, East Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, Cardigan Bay, Morecambe Bay, Bristol Channel and English Channel. The data will be accompanied by new geotechnical studies commissioned by the OGA to investigate the key subsurface uncertainties in these areas and support further activity.

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