The UK’s 26th round of licensing has been launched, which is expected to provide impetus for offshore oil and gas exploration in the country.

The new round, which put up a record 2,818 licences, provides blocks for new licensing in all parts of UK seas.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Hunt said the 26th round covers parts of the Continental Shelf not yet explored and will help increase activity in the basin.

“The round will help to secure the future of the UK’s oil and gas industry, which still provides three quarters of our energy needs and some 350,000 jobs,” Lord Hunt said.

Lord Hunt added that the government estimates there are still around 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent or more to be produced.

The licensing round covers Cardigan Bay off Wales, the West of Shetland frontier play, expanses in the English Channel and the UK’s westerly approach waters off Cornwall.

Other blocks covered include those relinquished under the Fallow Initiative, which boosts work on blocks that have been inactive for three years.

Up to 14 blocks that were considered fallow in 2009 have been partially or completely relinquished in time to be included in this round.

Areas licensed in the initial round in 1964 that have not been given extensions have been relinquished in time to be on offer in this round.