UK Awards 31 New North Sea Oil and Gas Exploration Licenses

2024 05

The UK’s North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) offered on Friday another 31 licenses for North Sea exploration in the final tranche of the 33rd oil and gas licensing round.  

In all three tranches of the licensing round, the UK regulator has awarded over the past few months a total of 82 licenses to 50 companies. The first tranche offered 27 licenses in October 2023, with the second offering 24 licenses in January 2024.

The 33rd round has attracted 115 bids from 76 companies across 257 blocks and part-blocks, NSTA said.

The licenses offered in the round would be expected to add an estimated 600 million barrels of oil equivalent to 2060, or 545 million barrels of oil equivalent by 2050.  

Some of the licenses awarded today are in areas previously earmarked for offshore wind power licenses.

“Following discussions with our partners in The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland, we have introduced a new clause for overlapping oil and gas licences and wind leases for the first time,” NSTA said.

“This will be the main commercial mechanism for these licences to resolve spatial overlaps and to support co-existence of these important industries.”

“The North Sea is an important resource for energy security and net zero delivery, so it’s vital that sectors collaborate to ensure those systems can co-exist,” the regulator said.

The leading industry body, Offshore Energies UK, said that the latest license awards are chiefly for natural gas extraction from the southern North Sea, with the potential to come on stream within the next five years.

“They will make the UK less reliant on imported gas, which the NSTA has shown to be more carbon intensive,” OEUK added.

Offshore Energies UK’s CEO David Whitehouse commented,

“In this general election year, we face a choice: we can build a homegrown energy transition and kickstart economic growth by backing our people, our offshore firms and our world class supply chain, or we can import even more energy and fail to grow our new wind, hydrogen and carbon capture industries.”

By Charles Kennedy for

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