The UK’s Oil and Gas Authority ("OGA") has offered for award 37 licence areas covering 141 blocks or part blocks to 30 companies in the 31st Offshore Licensing Round for the United Kingdom Continental Shelf ("UKCS"). The licensing round which sought bids for licences for blocks primarily in frontier areas was launched on 10 July 2018 and closed on 7 November 2018.

The awards are said by the OGA to act as a strong platform for future exploration and production in frontier areas of the UKCS in the Faroe-Shetland Basin, Moray Firth, East Irish Sea, East Shetland Platform, Mid North Sea High and English Channel.

A number of proposed new work programmes have been secured in this round and two licences are to progress straight to the second term and field development planning.

Awards have been made to a broad range of companies from well-known super-majors to new entrants to the UKCS acquiring licence interests for the first time.

The OGA provided a number of incentives in support of this licensing round including a suite of new data and analyses, digital maps, prospect and discovery reports and well and seismic data. The seismic data provided included data from the 2016 Government-Funded Seismic Programme, which made freely available ~19,000km of broadband seismic data and ~23,000km of reprocessed legacy seismic data and well packages.

The offer of awards in the licensing round is encouraging in terms of prospects for future activity on the UKCS, in particular in relation to exploration and production opportunities offered in areas that have never before been licensed.

What's next?

The outcome of the 31st Supplementary Offshore Licensing Round (Great Buchan Area Plan) – which closed on 2 May 2019 – is expected later in 2019; the 32nd Offshore Licensing Round is due to launch in Summer 2019 and will focus on mature areas of the UKCS.