A total of 17 oil and gas operators have been awarded licences in the 29th ‘frontier’ offshore Licensing Round.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has handed out 25 licences for a total of 111 North Sea blocks.
This was the first licensing round in two decades to focus solely on the frontier, under-explored areas of the Rockall Basin, Mid-North Sea High and part of the East Shetland platform.
Successful candidates have pitched three firm well commitments in the near to medium term, with three new entrants also entering the UKCS for the first time.
Both the Rockall and the Mid-North Sea High areas were subject a UK Government funded £20million seismic survey, with the subsurface data given away to any potentially interested parties.
The OGA said this was “critical” to stimulating applications.
OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said: “The £20 million investment in new seismic for the Rockall and Mid-North Sea High areas, subsequent release of 40,000 kilometres of new and reprocessed data, combined with the work of the MER UK Exploration Task Force in developing the Innovate Licence, and a stable and competitive fiscal regime has resulted in a number of quality applications in this frontier Licensing Round.
“We are particularly pleased to see firm well commitments, the targeting of new and under-explored plays, and first-time entrants to the basin, alongside a number of established companies, which will help stimulate further activity and value creation.”
A total of 24 companies applied for the 113 blocks that were up for grabs this round.
Statoil won five licences as operator with BP partnering. The Norwegian major will be will also be partnering with Exxon on a further licence.
Shell UK was awarded two operating licences with BP as a partner on one.
Zennor, Alpha Petroleum, Decipher Energy and Nautical Petroleum were all awarded a licence each. Azinor Catalyst was awarded two operating licences with Dyas UK partnering on one.
TAQA Bratani, The Steam Oil Production Company, North Sea Natural Resources, Simwell Resources and Centrica were all awarded licences.
Ardent Oil was awarded two with partners Horizon Energy Partners and Simwell Resources.
Chrysaor, Draupner Energy and Simwell were also awarded operated licences.
In comparison, the 28th round saw more than 175 licenses awarded.
The 2016 Supplementary Round closed for applications in earlier this month and attracted fifteen applications for eleven blocks in all.
Consideration will now be given to the applications, with awards to be announced later this year.
The 30th licensing round is expected to be announced later this year.