The UK’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has awarded 37 licence areas to 30 companies in the 31st Offshore Licensing Round.

The awarded area encompasses 141 exploration blocks or part-blocks in the frontier areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) in the Faroe-Shetland Basin, East Shetland Platform, Moray Firth, East Irish Sea, Mid North Sea High and the English Channel.

A wide spectrum of companies, including BP, Shell, Equinor and Cycle Petroleum secured licences in the latest round. The applicants were screened on the basis of their financial capacity, technical capabilities and other environmental aspects.

Proposed work programmes authorised with the licensing include new seismic acquisition while two licences will progress directly to field development planning (second-term licences).

However, it does not permit the awardees to undertake development activities in the exploration blocks, which can be carried out with separate consents from the OGA.

OGA exploration and new ventures head Dr Nick Richardson said: “Exploration on the UK Continental Shelf continues to be revitalised with the results indicating a continuation of the strong interest shown in the previous frontier round, the 29th Round in 2016.

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“It has been very encouraging to see industry generating new prospects and play concepts, and seeking acreage in areas which have never before been licensed, such as parts of the East Shetland Platform, underlining the positive impact of ongoing government-funded data initiatives.”

The 31st Offshore Licensing Round was launched on 10 July last year and the deadline for submitting applications ended on 7 November. OGA received a total of 36 applications.

The latest licensing will be followed by the 32nd round, which is scheduled to be launched later this year. It will include the mature areas of the UKCS.