More than 100 applications have been submitted to drill for new oil and gas in the North Sea, the BBC has reported. A total of 115 bids have been received and the successful applicants will be announced later in 2023.
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), which regulates the sector, said a total of 115 bids have been received from 76 companies, covering 258 “blocks” of the sea. It included four priority areas, which have known hydrocarbons (oil and gas), in which there was very keen interest and could see production in as little as 18 months.
Internal analysis by the NSTA shows that the average time between the dates of recent discoveries and first production has been close to five years. The NSTA hope that, since they consist of existing discoveries, the priority cluster areas can go into production in an even shorter time.
Dr Nick Richardson, the NSTA’s head of exploration, said: “We have seen a strong response from industry to the [licensing] round, which has exceeded application levels compared to previous rounds.
“We will now be working hard to analyse the applications with a view to awarding the first licences from the second quarter of 2023.”
‘Security of supply’
The licensing round is seen as a key part of the NSTA’s drive to support UK energy security, which also includes licensing the Rough gas storage facility, and encouraging operators to look at reopening closed wells.
The decision to increase oil and gas exploration is at odds with international climate scientists who say fossil fuel projects should be closed down, not expanded, if there is to be a chance of keeping global temperature rises under 1.5C.
Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global body for climate science, and the International Energy Agency have expressed such a view.
But UK Climate Minister Graham Stuart said: “Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has led to volatile global energy markets.
“It’s fantastic to see such interest from industry in this round, with the awarded licences set to play an important role in boosting domestic energy production and securing the UK’s long-term energy security of supply.”