North Sea awards 27 new oil and gas licenses


IN a landmark development for the United Kingdom’s energy sector, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has paved the way for a new chapter in domestic energy production. The granting of 27 exploration licences, including major players like Shell, bp, and Equinor, signals a resolute commitment to rapid domestic energy production, addressing the nation’s burgeoning energy needs.

Shell has been awarded the most new licences, while bp, Equinor, Aker BP, Ithaca and TotalEnergies are among others to benefit.

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The areas earmarked for exploration have been carefully selected for their high potential for rapid production, according to NSTA Chief Executive Stuart Payne, who stressed the immediate commencement of work to ensure energy security.

“These licences were awarded in the expectation that the licensees will get down to work immediately,” Payne stated. “Ensuring the UK has broad options for energy security is at the heart of our work.”

This decision, hailed as a boost for national security, is anticipated to support 200,000 jobs in the sector. The NSTA reported a record number of applications this year, with 115 submissions from 76 companies, marking the highest since 2016/17.

Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) Chief Executive David Whitehouse emphasised the necessity of a balanced energy system, integrating both oil, and gas, and renewables to meet the UK’s energy needs. Whitehouse highlighted the economic significance of reducing reliance on imports, citing a staggering £117 billion spent last year on fuel imports. He called for pragmatic policies and political consensus to drive investments in wind, hydrogen, carbon capture, and domestic oil and gas production, ensuring jobs and economic growth for the nation.

The newly granted licences cover 55 blocks in the North Sea, with further offerings contingent upon environmental checks. Ryan Crighton, Policy Director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the decision. “This is a welcome boost for the UK oil and gas industry, which currently supports 215,000 jobs, including 90,000 in Scotland and 45,000 in the Aberdeen region alone,” Crighton said. 

He continued saying, “UK oil production fell to an all-time low of 38 million tonnes in 2022, and it will plummet to 22 million tonnes in 2030 unless new wells are drilled.”

The announcement follows the approval of the Rosebank project, set to generate nearly 2,000 jobs, and echoes Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s commitment to maximise the UK’s oil and gas reserves. While environmental concerns loom, Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho defended the decision, stating that, “we’ll continue to need oil and gas over the coming decades as we deliver net-zero. It’s common sense to reduce our reliance on foreign imports and use our own supply.”

This surge of interest not only reaffirms the confidence in the UK’s energy market but also signals a promising era of innovation and collaboration. As the nation forges ahead, harnessing the vast potential of its domestic resources, the outcome of this licensing round stands as a testament to the industry’s resilience and determination to chart a sustainable energy future.

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