The United Kingdom’s latest offshore licensing round has attracted 96 applications covering 239 blocks in the main oil and gas producing areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). Applications were received from 68 companies ranging from multinationals to new country entrants.

The 30th Licensing Round, which closed on Tuesday 21st November, offered significant opportunities to acquire acreage in the UKCS’s main basins, including the Southern, Central and Northern North Sea, the West of Shetland and East Irish Sea, with an aggregate area totalling 114,426 km2 (28,275,280 acres).

The acreage offer featured a large inventory of prospects and undeveloped discoveries, and to support industry in unlocking these opportunities, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) openly provided several digital data packages, and co-hosted a technology event with the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC). Applicants applied using the new Innovate Licence, developed by the OGA in collaboration with industry. The OGA intends to offer awards to successful applicants during Q2 2018.

Nick Richardson, Head of Exploration and New Ventures at the OGA, said: “Despite the difficult economic environment, industry has responded strongly to this round, confirming the high remaining potential of the UKCS. The focus on regions with existing infrastructure provided companies with an excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at a large inventory of opportunities from which to rebuild their portfolios to help sustain future production.

“Efforts by the OGA to provide new data, analysis and insights has stimulated a number of high quality applications. Together with the added advantages of flexible licensing, technology development and improvements to the oil and gas fiscal regime, this has evidently created the right conditions to support continued investment in the UKCS.”

Attention will now turn to the 31st Round, scheduled to be launched in mid-2018, which will provide high-impact exploration opportunities in under-explored areas of the UKCS. To support the next licensing round, the OGA will release the results of the 2016 Government-Funded Seismic Programme next Monday (27th November). Almost 19,000 km of newly-acquired, broadband seismic data will be made freely available, together with approximately 23,000 km of reprocessed legacy seismic data and well data packages.

The data covers the East Shetland Platform, North West Scotland, South West Approaches, East Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, Cardigan Bay, Morecambe Bay, Bristol Channel and English Channel. The data will be accompanied by new geotechnical studies commissioned by the OGA to investigate the key subsurface uncertainties in these areas and support further activity.

Notes to the Editor:

  1. 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.
  2. The OGA’s Innovate Licence was developed through an industry task group and offers a flexible, pragmatic and focussed approach to licensing.
  3. 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. The new data will be released under open licences supported by Common Data Access (CDA).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


For more information, please contact Tracey Miller, Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0) 300 020 1072