UK's first licensing round in three years attracts 115 bids
The UK's first licensing round since 2020 has attracted 115 bids from 76 companies, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) reported on January 17, as the country's government looks to shore up national energy security.
The bids were for exploration rights at 258 blocks and part-blocks, with the round attracting similar interest to the previous contest that was concluded three years ago. That round attracted 104 bids for 245 blocks and part-blocks.
"It's fantastic to see such interest from industry in this round, with the awarded licences set to play an important role in boosting domestic energy production and securing the UK's long-term energy security of supply," UK energy minister Graham Stuart commented.
The first licences are due to be awarded in the second quarter of this year, after the applications have been analysed, the NSTA said.
UK energy security and affordability has been pushed to the forefront as a result of the energy crisis that has unfolded in Europe, exacerbated by drastic cuts in Russian pipeline gas supply. According to NSTA analysis, though, on average between the dates of recent discoveries and first production has been close to five years, according to NSTA analysis, and so the latest licensing round is likely to have little bearing on UK energy supply until the late 2020s.
After licences are issued, companies will have to obtain necessary consents before moving ahead with work, including climate compatibility checkpoints.
The UK had temporarily paused licensing rounds in 2020, with the NSTA, then known as the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), stating that it needed to review its licensing policy to ensure it was in line with the country's net-zero goal. That same year Denmark ended oil exploration, followed by Spain the following year and Ireland in 2022.