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. The £20 million programme targeted under explored areas of the UKCS and significantly 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 industry in April 2016 as part of the OGA’s wider plan to revitalise exploration.

The 29th Round marks the launch of the ‘Innovate Licence’ concept. This 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 programme. 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.

This latest round follows on from the successful 28th Round in 2015, one of the largest licensing rounds since offshore licensing began in 1964. Companies have until 14:00 on 26th October 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 revitalising exploration. We recognise 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 programme sparked interest in the Rockall Trough and Mid-North Sea High areas and this licensing round now makes these under-explored frontiers available.

“The combination of, for the first time, freely available seismic data and the flexible ‘Innovate Licence’ is a compelling package and the result of many months of collaboration between the OGA and industry to stimulate further drilling and maximise economic recovery of the UK’s oil and gas resources.”

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State at the Department for 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. We now look forward to companies taking advantage of these newly discovered sites and all the potential that they offer.”

Notes to editors:

  • The Round closes for applications at 14:00 on the 26th October 2016
  • 1261 blocks are on offer in all.
  • A full list of the blocks on offer can be viewed on the licensing rounds page
  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) (formerly Department of Energy and Climate Change) undertook a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to help inform offshore energy licensing and leasing decisions by considering the environmental implications of the plan / programme. The SEA was subject to an 8-week public consultation during March and April 2016. On 13th July 2016 BEIS published the Post Consultation Report and Post Adoption Statement concluding the SEA process.
  • The SEA concluded that there are no overriding environmental considerations to prevent the achievement of the plan / programme. However, the SEA has made a number of recommendations regarding precautions, with the area offered restricted spatially through the exclusion of certain areas together with a number of mitigation measures to prevent, reduce and offset significant adverse impacts on the environment and other users of the sea. The excluded areas will not be part of the offer.
  • BEIS will carry out a screening exercise in accordance with the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) to determine whether the activities proposed to be carried out under the prospective licences are likely to have a significant effect on the management of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Area (SPA). Where the screening exercise determines that a significant impact is likely, BEIS will undertake an Appropriate Assessment to determine whether the activities could have any adverse effects on the integrity of such SACs or SPAs. Licences will only be awarded where it has been ascertained that that there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of such SACs and SPAs. BEIS and HSE will also consider the safety and environmental requirements of the Offshore Safety Directive, and will make recommendations accordingly for or against the award of each licence.
  • Licences that are awarded in the round may contain conditions to protect environmental sensitivities, and the interests of other sea users. In addition, activities carried out under the licences will be subject to a range of legislation which is designed to protect the marine environment and other users of the sea, including regulations which apply the Environmental Impact Assessment and Habitats Directives in relation to offshore oil and gas activities.
  • The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, announced the £20 million funding for the 2015 seismic programme in the March 2015 Budget, as part of a £1.3 billion package of measures to drive investment in the UKCS.
  • The programme acquired 8,896km of full-fold seismic in the Rockall Trough area, 10,849 km of full-fold seismic acquired in Mid-North Sea High which was published under the Open Government Licence on 31st March 2016.
  • Data is available to download via Common Data Access (CDA)
  • Common Data Access (CDA) is an operating subsidiary of Oil & Gas UK, set up in 1995 to provide cost-effective data management services to its members and to the UK oil industry in general.
  • The additional £20 million for the 2016 seismic acquisition programme was announced by the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, during a visit to Aberdeen in January as part of a wider package of measures to support the oil and gas sector.
  • The 2016 seismic programme will focus on South West Britain and the East Shetland Platform. Contracts were awarded to WesternGeco and PGS respectively

For more information please contact:

Leona Minellas
Press and Media Advisor
Oil & Gas Authority
Tel: +44 (0) 300 020 1072