We run a competitive licensing system and applications may only be made in accordance with approved procedures.

Licensing rounds

The NSTA issues production licences through competitive work programme based licensing rounds; click here to view current and previous licensing rounds. Applications for offshore and onshore petroleum licences during a licensing round are submitted via the Licence Application Repository (LARRY) accessed through the UK Energy Portal.

Out-of-round process

There may be exceptional circumstances where it would be reasonable for a company not to have to wait for the next licensing round to obtain a Production Licence, so the NSTA also has an out-of-round application process. It can only be used if justified by exceptional circumstances and is not a routine alternative to licensing rounds.  Usually, the NSTA will only consider an application where a potential applicant can demonstrate a firm commitment to near-term activity.  Circumstances where an Out-of-Round process may be considered but not limited to, include:

  • Areas adjacent to acreage already held by that company where it can be demonstrated that existing fields, discoveries and near-field targets extend into unlicensed acreage, and where a licence is required to progress activity and investment decisions;
  • Areas that require licensing for the purpose of operational activities such as wells and installations that are related to acreage already held;
  • Issuing a Production Licence in association with a Carbon Storage Licence to ensure that where exploration/appraisal is taking place for the primary purpose of carbon storage, and there is an associated probability that hydrocarbons will be discovered, the licensee is not automatically in breach of the requirement to hold a petroleum production licence for the purpose of searching for and boring for and getting petroleum.

The NSTA can only accept licence applications in response to a formal invitation to apply, so any company seeking an out-of-round licence must first convince the NSTA of the case to issue an out-of-round invitation. If approved, the process will usually then entail publication of an invitation in the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes with applications being taken at least 90 days later.

Companies who want the NSTA to consider an out-of-round process should email Offshore.Exploration@nstauthority.co.uk in the first instance to nominate the area of interest. If the NSTA then subsequently invites applications, they should be made in LARRY, the same way as during a licensing round and the same guidance will apply.

Applying for an Offshore or Onshore Exploration Licence

Exploration Licences are not exclusive so they do not raise issues of competition. Companies can apply at any time for a new Exploration Licence (or, if applicable under the terms of an Exploration Licence for an extension to an existing Exploration Licence). For more information on Exploration Licences and related fees please view Types of Licences.

Exploration licence application form (MS Word Document, 5KB)

Please email completed Exploration Licence application forms to approvals@nstauthority.co.uk