Oil and gas supermajors are to explore the frontiers of the North Sea in search of hidden gems.
And they will be accompanied by a handful of smaller operators with some big ideas.
Regulator the Oil and Gas Authority hand out a 25 new awards for more than 100 blocks of the North Sea in the 29th offshore licensing round.
Big players such as Statoil, BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil all snapped up seabed space.
While a relative newcomer plans to revolutionise the recovery of heavy oil from the North Sea.
The Steam Oil Production Company was established in 2014 with the intention of launching the first major offshore development of its kind in the world.
It involves ‘steam flooding’ hot water vapour into a well.
This heats the oil to a higher temperature so that it thins, allowing it to flow more efficiently through the underground formation and into the production wells.
It is already a popular recovery medium in the Alberta sands of Canada but is yet to be trialed offshore.
Steam Oil want to learn the best offshore application of this method before committing to a full scale development scheme for the heavy oil fields on the Western Platform.
The firm has was awarded four part blocks surrounding the Pilot field, having acquired licenses for it and the Harbour field in the previous round.
Norwegian giant Statoil, in partnership with BP Exploration, walked away with six of the 25 licences, in exchange for three firm commitments to drill in the East Shetland Platform.
The sixth licence relates to a partnership with Exxon Mobil’s Esso Exploration, who are the operator.
The license involves reprocessing 2D seismic data from the potentially bountiful Rockall basin.
The Rockall area was subject to a UK Government funded £20million seismic study, with the resultant data released for free.
Jez Averty, Statoil’s senior vice president for exploration in Norway and the UK, said: “Statoil has secured both drill ready prospects and frontier acreage, and the diversity of the awards is testament to Statoil’s belief in both the potential of the UK and that it remains an attractive place to explore,”
Mark Thomas, BP North Sea Regional President added: “We made a strong bid in the 29th round so are delighted to have been awarded everything we applied for – 25 blocks, including three firm wells. This represents BP’s largest acreage award since the late 1990s.”
BP, who took up their largest acreage bid since the late 1990s, also is also to explore the Magnus basin in conjunction with Bayerngas Europe.
Fellow supermajor Shell was awarded two licenses for blocks west of Shetland near the Schiehallion field.
Shell will operate both licenses, one in a 50/50 joint venture with BP and one with 100% ownership.
Steve Phimister, Shell’s Vice President Upstream, UK & Ireland, said: “This is a positive development which enhances Shell’s strategic exploration activity in one of our heartland areas, helping us to realise our ambition to become the most competitive and resilient operator in the UKCS.”
Centrica, Ardent, Chrysaor, Simwell and Azinor Catalyst were among the others who picked up licences in yesterday’s award.