The UK’s oil and gas industry regulator today launched the 30th North Sea bidding round with a large number of blocks in “mature areas” on the table.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has said the 30th offshore licensing round would be the “most significant” auction in the UK continental (UKCS) shelf in recent decades.
A total of 813 blocks or part blocks in the southern, central and northern North Sea, west of Shetland and the East Irish Sea are up for grabs.
Some of the areas were last made available more than 40 years ago and a large number of prospects and undeveloped discoveries are included.
Companies have until November 21 to submit applications for licences, with decisions on awards expected in the second quarter of 2018.
The OGA has laid on swathes of free information and data in an effort to make the licensing round appealing to North Sea businesses.
It will hope that the 30th round can build on previous auctions.
Earlier this month, the regulator revealed that oil companies had snapped up 11 of the 14 blocks on offer during the supplementary 2016 North Sea bidding round.
In the 29th round, which focused on frontier areas, 25 licences for 111 blocks or part blocks were awarded to 17 companies.
OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said it was important that companies make good use of the information and data published by the regulator.
Mr Samuel said: “The 30th Licensing Round offers companies a significant opportunity to rebuild their portfolios, taking advantage of the flexible Innovate Licence, technology and improvements to the UKCS fiscal regime.
“These factors combined mean now is a very good time to invest on the UKCS.
“We are encouraging companies to take a fresh look at large areas of acreage, some of which has not been available since 1965, and make best use of the recently released information and new data packs to inform their applications.”
Paul de Leeuw, director of the Oil and Gas Institute at Robert Gordon University, has said that the renewed appetite for competition, as displayed in previous rounds, was a good omen for the North Sea.
But Prof de Leeuw warned that the 30th round’s success would be “heavily dependent” on on-going confidence in medium to long-term oil and gas prices.
Mike Tholen, Oil & Gas UK’s upstream policy director, said: “The launch of the 30th Offshore Licensing Round offers companies the exciting opportunity to bid for fresh acreage and an interesting inventory of yet to be developed discoveries.
“The OGA has worked closely with industry to prepare for the round and provide a wealth of data offering fresh insight on the potential of the UKCS.
“Cost effective deployment of technology will be critical to the success of the round and we support the 30th Round Technology Forum which the OGA and the Oil and Gas Technology Centre are co-hosting on 22 August 2017 to help make a success of the Licensing Round.
“Given the improved efficiency and cost effectiveness of the UKCS, the 30th Licensing Round has all the ingredients to prove successful for the UKCS, and indeed for the UK economy.”
The OGA said the 31st round would once more focus on frontier areas, including those covered by a £20million seismic acquisition campaign, which looked at the East Shetland Platform and South West Britain.
The new seismic data will be released after the current round closes in November.