The 30th North Sea licensing round proves big players are not ready to leave UK waters yet, an analyst said today.
Kevin Swann, of energy research consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said the likes of BP, Shell, Equinor and ConocoPhillips had given the basin a vote of confidence by making firm commitments to drill exploration wells.
Mr Swann, senior research analyst, North Sea, said interest from newer players showed enthusiasm for UK exploration was “strong across the corporate landscape”.
Mr Swann is also excited that 14 licences will move straight to the field development planning stage.
But he warned that the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) still had work to do, with just two exploration wells drilled so far this year.
He said: “The number of licences, blocks and companies awarded in this round is on a par with the numbers seen in the 28th round in 2016, but more exciting this time is that 14 licences will move straight into the field development planning stage.
“The UK is in desperate need of new projects to fill a development pipeline that is all but empty beyond the early 2020s, and 14 new pre-FID projects could go a long way to rectifying that.
He added: “While this is all undoubtedly good news, and vindicates the switch to a Norwegian licencing round model, there is still work to do for the OGA. We’re fast approaching the middle of 2018 and only two exploration wells have been drilled so far.
“There is also an issue around exploration transparency, and lessons could be learned from Norway here too. Visibility of upcoming exploration wells and timely release of reserves data once successful wells complete are areas where the UK still lags behind.”