UK offers 1200 blocks in 29th offshore licensing round

UK’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has launched the 29th Offshore Licensing Round with more than 1200 blocks on offer to support its objective of maximizing economic recovery (MER) of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

OGA said on Wednesday that companies can now apply for new licenses to drill for offshore oil and gas in a number of frontier areas of the UKCS, some of which were part of last year’s UK Government funded seismic campaign.

According to OGA, the £20 million seismic campaign targeted underexplored areas of the UKCS and improved the previously sparse data coverage in the Rockall Trough and Mid-North Sea High regions. The data packages were downloaded more than 3,000 times after being made freely available to the industry in April 2016 as part of the OGA’s wider plan to revitalize exploration.

The organization said that the 29th Round marks the launch of the ‘Innovate Licence’ concept which offers a flexible and pragmatic approach to licensing which was developed by an industry task group set up by the MER UK Exploration Board.

The new approach will allow licensees to work with OGA to design an optimal work program. This enables more appropriate phasing of activity, rental fees, and competency tests and implements a stage-gate process for better monitoring of progress than the previous licensing regime, OGA said.

This latest round follows on from the successful 28th Round, which began in 2014 and ended in 2015. Companies have until 14:00 on October 26, 2016, to apply for blocks on offer in the 29th Round.

Andy Samuel, Chief Executive of the OGA, said: “Since the OGA was established, we have worked very closely with government and industry with the aim of revitalizing exploration. We recognize that market conditions are currently very difficult but nevertheless we have a shared goal of making the basin as attractive as possible for exploration. We’ve listened to industry feedback and have introduced more flexibility in the licensing regime and opened up potential new areas for licensing.

“The £20 million Government-funded seismic acquisition program sparked interest in the Rockall Trough and Mid-North Sea High areas, and this licensing round now makes these under-explored frontiers available.”

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “I welcome these new opportunities for our important oil and gas industry and the associated supply chain. The £20m seismic campaign funded by this government has highlighted more of the opportunities that are still out there in the UK continental shelf.”