Faroes licences shot in the arm to delayed UK round

UK Minister of Energy and Competitiveness Helen Liddell admitted today that the government was no nearer being able to set a date for the long-delayed 19th offshore licensing round because of ongoing European Union Habitats Directive hearings.


Darius Snieckus
OGJ Online

STAVANGER�UK Minister of Energy and Competitiveness Helen Liddell admitted today that the government is no nearer being able to set a date for the long-delayed 19th offshore licensing round because of ongoing European Union Habitats Directive hearings. But she raised hopes for oil companies preparing to bid for exploration acreage with the suggestion that the inaugural offshore licensing round on the Faroe shelf had been a shot in the arm to her government's licensing plans as the acreage awarded neighbors the highly prospective Atlantic Frontier region, where it is expected many of the next UK exploration licenses are located.

"From the point of view of my department moving ahead, we are anxious to proceed as quickly as possible with the round, but we support hearings in relation to the [EU] Habitats Directive, which meant that we had to be sure we took into account all the elements which we believed we had previously done, so I can't give a firm date," state Liddell. "We are proceeding apace and are anxious it should be done sooner rather than later," she added.

A High Court ruling earlier this year ruled out all future offshore oil licensing rounds "until the government properly applies the EU Habitats Directive" to an area extending 200 nautical miles from the UK coast rather than 12 miles, as was the practice.

BP, Statoil AS, Phillips Petroleum Co., Agip SPA, and Enterprise Oil PLC were among the winners in the first Faroese licensing round that saw seven licenses located in water depths ranging from 900 m to 1,200 m granted to five oil company consortia. The 18th UK offshore licensing round, in which 78 North Sea blocks were awarded to 44 operating companies, was announced on Dec. 1, 1998, by then-Energy and Industry Minister John Battle.

More in Exploration & Development