The UK’s 30th offshore licensing round has received 96 applications covering 239 blocks in the prominent oil and gas producing areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

UK’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) announced that the licensing round received applications from 68 companies including multinationals and new entrants.

OGA Exploration and New Ventures head Nick Richardson said: “Despite the difficult economic environment, industry has responded strongly to this round, confirming the high remaining potential of the UKCS.

“The focus on regions with existing infrastructure provided companies with an excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at a large inventory of opportunities from which to rebuild their portfolios to help sustain future production.”

The new licensing round includes an area of about 114,426km2 across the southern, central and northern North Sea, the West of Shetland and East Irish Sea.

The offered acreage is expected to host several prospects and undeveloped discoveries.

“Despite the difficult economic environment, industry has responded strongly to this round, confirming the high remaining potential of the UKCS.”

Richardson added: “Efforts by the OGA to provide new data, analysis and insights has stimulated a number of high-quality applications.

“Together with the added advantages of flexible licensing, technology development and improvements to the oil and gas fiscal regime, this has evidently created the right conditions to support continued investment in the UKCS.”

OGA is expected to award licences to successful applicants in the second quarter of next year.

The authority is also scheduled to launch the 31st round in mid-2018 that will include under-explored areas of the UKCS.

To support the next licensing round, the OGA will release the results of the 2016 government-funded seismic programme next week.

It includes newly-acquired, broadband seismic data of about 19,000km area, as well as nearly 23,000km of reprocessed legacy seismic data and well data packages.