Firms apply for new North Sea oil and gas fields
Applications for more than 100 North Sea oil and gas fields have been submitted after the UK government opened a fresh round of licensing.
The 115 bids follow a three-year hiatus and gas operations could begin within 18 months amid growing demands to ensure energy security in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine..
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the government body that regulates the North Sea oil and gas industries, said that 76 companies are seeking the rights to 258 geographical blocks or parts thereof.
It offered access to 931 areas under the latest licensing round, which launched in October.
The details have not been disclosed but the winners are expected to be announced from the second quarter.
The authority said the licensing round “included four priority areas, which have known hydrocarbons [oil and gas], in which there was very keen interest and could see production in as little as 18 months”.
These are clusters of explored but undeveloped fields in the southern North Sea, an area with significant existing gas production.
The award of new licences comes amid pressures from climate campaigners to halt further development and a week after the Scottish Government declared that there should be a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas. Scottish Energy Secretary Michael Matheson later said this was not a “ban” but a demand for consideration over whether a field was needed.
Last year the Climate Change Committee, the government’s official advisers, said the environmental impact of new domestic production was “not clear-cut” and that the government could factor in energy security concerns when deciding whether to seek to increase production.
Dr Nick Richardson, the NSTA’s head of exploration, said: “We have seen a strong response from industry to the [licensing] round, which has exceeded application levels compared to previous rounds.
“We will now be working hard to analyse the applications with a view to awarding the first licences from the second quarter of 2023.”