The UK Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) opened the 29th licensing round, inviting companies to apply for new licenses to drill for offshore oil and gas in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

Firms are allowed to bid for offshore oil and gas drilling licenses for more than 1200 blocks in the UKCS. Some of the licenses were part of last year’s UK Government funded seismic campaign.

The licensing round, which marks the launch of the ‘Innovate License’ concept, is a part OGA’s plan to maximize economic recovery (MER) from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

The Innovate License concept will allow licensees to work with the UK’s oil and gas industry regulator to design an optimal work program for more appropriate phasing of activity, rental fees and competency tests, and implement a stage-gate process for better progress monitoring.

OGA CEO Andy Samuel said: “We recognize that market conditions are currently very difficult but nevertheless we have a shared goal of making the basin as attractive as possible for exploration.

“The £20m Government-funded seismic acquisition program sparked interest in the Rockall Trough and Mid-North Sea High areas and this licensing round now makes these under-explored frontiers available.

“The combination of, for the first time, freely available seismic data and the flexible ‘Innovate License’ is a compelling package and the result of many months of collaboration between the OGA and industry to stimulate further drilling and maximize economic recovery of the UK’s oil and gas resources.”

In 2015, the UK Government awarded second tranche of 41 licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea under the 28th Offshore Licensing Round, which was launched in 2014.

Including the first tranche of 134 licenses in November 2014, the country issued 175 licenses covering 353 blocks.

OGA Exploration and Production director Gunther Newcombe earlier said: “The UKCS is in a unique position having recovered more than 43 billion barrel of oil equivalent (boe) to-date, yet up to 20 billion boe still remains.”

Image: The new licenses will include a part of last year’s UK Government funded seismic campaign. Photo: courtesy of UK Government/ Crown copyright.