Independent Oil and Gas has been approved by the Oil and Gas Authority as exploration operator of the Skipper licence.
The OGA has also given the go-ahead for the pending assignment of 50% of the licence, which is currently owned by Alpha Petroleum Resources. The formal completion of the acquisition is expected to be confirmed early next week.
Chief executive Mark Routh, said: “This is a huge step forward for IOG in line with our stated strategy.
“Qualifying as an exploration operator opens up many more opportunities for IOG and is of course essential for our near term objective of drilling the Skipper well which is on track to commence drilling at the end of January or early February 2016.
“IOG also anticipates becoming a qualified production operator in due course either via acquisition or organically as we develop our portfolio of oil and gas assets.”