The United Kingdom’s latest offshore licensing round has attracted 36 applications covering 164 blocks in frontier areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). A strong and diverse set of applications were received from 35 companies ranging from multinationals to microbusinesses.

The 31st Licensing Round, which closed on Wednesday 7th November, offered significant opportunities to acquire acreage across the UKCS’s extensive frontier areas, including the Atlantic Margin, East Shetland Platform, Mid North Sea High, and English Channel, with an aggregate area exceeding 370,000 km2.

The OGA will now commence its technical evaluation of applications, and intends to offer awards to successful applicants as early as possible during Q2 2019.

Dr Nick Richardson, Head of Exploration and New Ventures at the OGA, said: “This is an encouraging set of applications, demonstrating that interest in UK offshore licensing opportunities has increased since the 29th frontier round held in 2016, with an almost 50% increase in the number of blocks applied for. The OGA has received applications on some blocks on the East Shetland Platform which have never been previously licenced, underlining the positive impact of ongoing Government-Funded data initiatives.

“The recent publication by the OGA of a comprehensive re-evaluation of the UKCS’s Yet-to-Find potential points towards an additional exploration resource base of 4.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent (Bboe) in prospects and leads and 11.2 Bboe in plays, largely in frontier areas, with a bias towards gas-rich opportunities. Whilst the UKCS offers a rich and attractive set of exploration and field development opportunities, the OGA continues to be concerned by low levels of drilling activity. We are encouraging industry to step up its efforts to explore for new resources, providing enhanced security of domestic supply in the future.”

Attention will now turn to the 31st Supplementary Round in the Greater Buchan Area, scheduled to be launched in Q1 2019, which will provide an opportunity to develop and explore for a cluster of opportunities in a prime area of the Outer Moray Firth. To support this effort, the OGA will be releasing a package of supporting data, and is encouraging companies to partner up and collaborate in an Area Plan approach to maximise value from the estimated 150-300 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMboe) within this area.

The OGA has a long-term plan to offer regular licensing opportunities to industry with annual rounds, alternating between mature and frontier areas. The next mature licensing round is scheduled to be launched in mid-2019, and will be supported by the UK’s successful flexible licensing regime.

Notes to the Editor:

  • The OGA is committed to maximising the economic recovery of hydrocarbons from the UKCS by creating an environment that stimulates exploration activity, allowing industry to create value through drilling of a balanced portfolio of frontier and mature area prospects, leading to the discovery of new oil and gas reserves.
  • The OGA’s flexible Innovate Licence was developed through an industry task group and offers a pragmatic and focussed approach to licensing.
  • The OGA have now delivered two offshore seismic programmes, funded by government to stimulate exploration activity in frontier areas of the UKCS. Each programme was supported with a £20 million budget, with surveys in 2015 across the Rockall Basin and Mid North Sea High, and surveys in 2016 across the East Shetland Platform and South and West of Britain. This new data has been released under open licences via supported by Common Data Access (CDA). Further Petroleum Systems datasets will be produced through an additional £5 million funding during the 2018/2019 financial year.
  • OPRED 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 are likely to have a significant effect on the management of a Special Area of Conservation Area (SAC) or Special Protection Area (SPA). Where the screening exercise determines that there is a potential for likely significant impact, OPRED 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 there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of such SACs and SPAs. OPRED and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will also consider whether applicants meet 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.
  • More information on Licensing Rounds, can be viewed here.
  • The new Yet-to-Find process and prospective resource estimates can be found in the latest UK Oil and Gas Reserves and Resources Report, available here.


For more information, please contact Tracey Miller, Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0) 300 020 1072