The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has awarded 25 licences for 111 blocks or part blocks to 17 companies in the 29th Offshore Licensing Round, enabling further exploration and production across frontier areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

The 29th Licensing Round was the first round in two decades to focus on under-explored areas of the Rockall Basin, Mid-North Sea High, and part of the East Shetland Platform.

The round saw applications from 24 companies for 113 blocks when it closed in October 2016.

OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said: “The £20m investment in new seismic for the Rockall and Mid-North Sea High areas, subsequent release of 40,000km of new and reprocessed data, combined with the work of the MER UK Exploration Task Force in developing the Innovate Licence, and a stable and competitive fiscal regime has resulted in a number of quality applications in this frontier Licensing Round."

Samuel added: “While exploration activity has undoubtedly suffered as a result of the difficult market conditions, we are now seeing highly encouraging success rates and finding costs on the UKCS.

"We are now seeing highly encouraging success rates and finding costs on the UKCS."

“This is testament to the value of a robust and focused exploration strategy with commitment from industry, government and the OGA.

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“The upcoming 30th Offshore Licensing Round will focus on mature areas and is expected to be the most significant offshore round in recent decades.

“An extensive number of prospects and undeveloped discoveries will be on offer. Ahead of the launch, we will be releasing information packs on a number of these opportunities. The 30th Round is likely to be announced during the latter half of the second quarter of 2017, and will be open for 120 days.”

OGA stated that all areas generated interest among the companies, especially three firm well commitments in the near-medium term and work programmes involving application of new technology.

The OGA’s 2016 Supplementary Round closed for applications on 7 March. This round received 15 applications for 11 blocks.

Results are expected to be announced later this year.