LONDON — Britain’s North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) received more than 115 applications from 76 companies for the UK’s 33rd offshore oil and gas licensing round, which closed last week.
These covered 258 blocks and part-blocks.
The new round, which opened last October, included four priority areas with known hydrocarbons. According to the NSTA, these could deliver production within 18 months.
There was similar interest in the 32nd Round, when a larger number of blocks were on offer.
The NSTA said it planned to award licenses quickly and supporting efforts to bring fields into production as soon as appropriate. Its analysis shows the average time between the dates of recent discoveries and first production has been close to five years; with existing discoveries, the priority cluster areas could potentially enter production quicker.
Also included in the current round was the Rough gas storage facility in the southern UK North Sea, with further terms to encourage operators to look at re-opening closed wells.
Dr. Nick Richardson, NSTA head of Exploration and New Ventures, said, “We will now be working hard to analyze the applications with a view to awarding the first licenses from the second quarter of 2023.”
Mark Wilson, director of HSE and operations at industry association Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), said, “These applications reflect long-term thinking by companies, which will invest many millions of pounds in the North Sea to search for new reserves, with no guarantee of success…
"As some of our older reserves are becoming depleted, new finds will help us replace lost production of oil and gas and positively contribute to UK’s energy transition and energy security. This is why new licenses are so important. All new developments will have lower emissions than older fields, helping the industry meet its target of halving emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. Our industry has already reduced the emissions from UK oil and gas production by 20% since 2018.”
OEUK added that while the headline number of applications was positive, many details remained unclear, in particular, what the license applications were actually for, as licenses can be issued for exploration, production or other purposes.