For the first time in 20 years, the UK has awarded new oil and gas licences for exploration and production across what it called “frontier areas” of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
The country’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) announced that 25 licences were granted in the 29th Offshore Licensing Award. This concerns licenses for 111 blocks or, part block which were granted to 17 companies. The licences “focus solely on frontier, under-explored areas” of the Rockall Basin, Mid-North Sea High, and part of the East Shetland Platform. Industrial Info reported last year on what the OGC termed “a strong response” to the latest oil and gas licensing round, which targeted under-explored areas. At that time, it had attracted 29 applications from 24 companies covering 113 blocks in the UKCS.
Andy Samuel, OGA chief executive, said: we’ve seen a number of quality applications in this frontier Licensing Round. A number of factors lead to this result. “First of all, there’s the £20 million investment in new seismic for the Rockall and Mid-North Sea High areas. The subsequent release of 40,000 kilometres of new and reprocessed data is the second factor of importance. Combined with the work of the MER UK Exploration Task Force in developing the Innovate Licence, and ultimately a stable and competitive fiscal regime, we’ve been able to attract this large number of quality applications. 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. This will help stimulate further activity and value creation.”
DIFFICULT TIMES FOR EUROPEAN OIL AND GAS
Samuel recognised that the new licences come at a very difficult time for the European oil and gas sector.
“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,” he commented. “This is testament to the value of a robust and focused exploration strategy with commitment from industry, government and the OGA.”
Statoil was the biggest winner in the new round, with six licenses. Most of them will be operated with BP in the northern North Sea. A single licence west of Scotland in the Rockall basin will be operated with Esso Exploration, part of Exxon Mobil.
NEW LICENSING ROUND EXPECTED
According to 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”.
Samuel said: “An extensive number of prospects and undeveloped discoveries will be on offer. Ahead of the launch, we will be releasing information packs on a number of these opportunities. The 30th Round is likely to be announced during the latter half of the second quarter of 2017. It will be open for 120 days.”
Source: Industrial Info Resources – 3 April 2017