The Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) today issued a consultation to seek comments on the OGA's strategic plan-level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) of blocks taken forward for consideration of award in 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round.
The 14th round was opened by DECC last year on the 28 July and closed on the 28 October 2014. In total, DECC received 95 licence applications covering 295 blocks in England, Scotland and Wales. Following reviews and following the decision not to award licences in Scotland and Wales, this was reduced to 159 blocks for consideration. Each of these 159 blocks, for which a licence application has been received, was assessed by DECC in accordance with the requirements of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (the Habitats Regulations).
The OGA's announcement confirmed that no licences are being issued today. Successful companies for27 blocks are being notified that they are going to be awarded a licence, but only once the HRA for a further 132 other sites is completed; likely to be later this year.
The purpose of the consultation issued today is to seek views on DECC's approach and assessment to the strategic plan-level HRA on the 132 blocks that were taken forward for further consideration.
Scotland and Wales
Today's announcement from the OGA also confirms that the UK Government has decided that no new licences will be awarded in Scotland or Wales as part of the 14th Round.
What happens next?
Today's announcement covers 27 blocks that will be formally offered to successful companies in due course. However, the OGA has said that the final licence award will be subject to the outcome of the assessment of a further 132 blocks.
These further 132 blocks are subject to detailed assessment and consultation under the Habitats Regulations. The announcement marks the beginning of the public consultation stage of the HRA for the 14th Onshore Round. The consultation will close on 29 September 2015.
The licences for all offered blocks will then be granted after the terms and conditions have been finalised. This it is anticipated will be later this year.
Today's announcement is a further significant step in this Government's support for the onshore oil and gas industry and the safe development of shale gas in the UK. The announcement gives the companies in relation to the 27 blocks an assurance that they will be formally offered later in the year.