Energy Minister Charles Hendry recently announced that 46 new licences, covering 110 blocks, have been awarded to explore for hydrocarbons in the UK sector of the North Sea. The awards were made as part of the 26th offshore oil and gas licensing round, which was originally announced in January 2010. This licensing round awarded 144 licences but held back a number of blocks from award due to the need for further assessment on Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Charles Hendry confirmed that these licences have been subject to “rigorous review” and they are now satisfied that “initial exploration can go ahead.”
The licences will cover areas in the West of Shetland and North Sea Central Area, North Sea Southern Area, English Channel and North Channel and Morecombe Bay Areas, as discussed in the Law Now article “Exploring the Unknown” dated 29 January 2010.
Details of the licences awarded can be found at: http://og.decc.gov.uk/en/olgs/cms/licences/lic_rounds/26th_round/26th_round.aspx