The UK Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) is offering 1261 blocks as part of the 29th offshore licensing round in a bid to support its objective of maximising economic recovery (MER) from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

Under the £20m programme, companies have time until 26 October to apply for new licences to drill for offshore oil and gas in various frontier areas of the UKCS.

The programme is targeted under explored areas of the UKCS and improved the previously sparse data coverage in the Rockall Trough and Mid-North Sea High regions.

It acquired 8,896km of full-fold seismic in the Rockall Trough area and 10,849km of full-fold seismic in Mid-North Sea High in March.  

"This licensing round now makes these under-explored frontiers available."

The latest round follows the 28th round held last year and marks the launch of the ‘Innovate Licence’ concept, which offers a flexible approach to licensing developed by an industry task group set up by the MER UK Exploration Board.

This approach will allow licensees to work with OGA to design a work programme enabling more appropriate phasing of activity, rental fees, as well as competency tests.

OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said: “The £20m government-funded seismic acquisition programme sparked interest in the Rockall Trough and Mid-North Sea High areas and this licensing round now makes these under-explored frontiers available.

“The combination of, for the first time, freely available seismic data and the flexible ‘Innovate Licence’ is a compelling package and the result of many months of collaboration between the OGA and industry to stimulate further drilling and maximise economic recovery of the UK’s oil and gas resources.”

This year's seismic programme will focus on South West Britain and the East Shetland Platform and would be carried out by WesternGeco and PGS respectively.