By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Oct. 28 -- The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has awarded 144 licenses covering 268 North Sea blocks in the 26th license round, almost as many as the 303 awarded in the 25th round.
The licenses mostly grant operators authority to shoot or reprocess 3D seismic surveys, but they also contain firm commitments to drill 12 exploration wells.
The energy ministry expressed encouragement at the healthy level of industry interest in the blocks and vowed that exploration will be undertaken safely. Bidding were 83 companies, of which seven are newcomers to the UK continental shelf.
Energy Minister Charles Hendry said, “Whilst in the long-term, we want to decarbonize our energy system, we have moved swiftly to offer these licenses as we must realize the optimum value from the UK’s energy resources and ensure secure energy supplies.
“We remain absolutely vigilant and determined to ensure that exploration in our waters is done safely and with minimal impact to the environment.”
Following a screening exercise by DECC, it has been decided that 99 further blocks comprised in 45 prospective licenses should be subject to more detailed assessments of the likely effects of oil and gas activities on certain protected nature conservation areas. A decision on whether to grant licenses for these blocks will be subject to the results of the environmental assessments.
As it announced the awards, the ministry pointed out that Total E&P UK and partner DONG Energy confirmed the award of a £500 million contract for the development of an onshore gas processing plant in the Shetland Islands as part of the Laggan and Tormore project (OGJ Online, Oct. 27, 2010).