The UK Government has opened the 28th licensing round inviting companies to apply for new licences to drill for offshore oil and gas in the North Sea.
The government's latest initiative, which is set to give a further boost to the economy, will also support the industry's joint Oil and Gas Industrial Strategy, published in 2013, and works to secure future decades of investment and production in the North Sea.
Increasing recovery of oil and gas in the country is expected to improve energy security, support thousands of jobs and provide billions in increased tax revenues.
The UK's oil and gas sector, which attracted £14bn of capital expenditure and supplied around half of the country's primary energy demand in 2013, is already said to support around 350,000 jobs.
UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon said the latest round of offshore oil and gas drilling will help boost growth, energy security and jobs in the UK.
"There continues to be an extremely high level of interest in North Sea oil and gas, which is unsurprising when there could be as many as 20 billion barrels of oil still buried deep within the seabed," Fallon said.
During the previous licensing round, a record number of licences were rewarded including 21 new entrants.
At present, more than 50 companies are at work in the North Sea.
In 2013, 36 offshore projects with an associated capex of over £9bn were approved, which provide tax revenues of £6.5bn on production and a further £5bn through the wider supply-chain in corporate and payroll taxes.
Image: UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon. Photo: courtesy of Merrybrit.