The UK has launched a new round of oil and gas licensing for 898 exploration blocks in the North Sea to boost energy security, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) announced Friday.
The 33rd oil and gas licensing round will be launched later Friday for which the NSTA is inviting applications for licenses to explore and potentially develop 898 blocks and part-blocks in the North Sea.
The round may lead to over 100 licenses being awarded, the NSTA said in the statement.
Four priority cluster areas have been identified by the NSTA to encourage production as quickly as possible in the southern North Sea. These areas are close to infrastructure and have the potential to be developed quickly.
The NSTA will seek to license these areas ahead of others to fast-track the production phase.
The application period will run until 1400GMT on Jan. 12, 2023, and it is expected that the first licenses will be awarded starting from the second quarter of 2023.
The average time between discovery and first production is close to five years, according to NSTA analysis.
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“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine means it is now more important than ever that we make the most of sovereign energy resources, strengthening our energy security now and into the future,” UK Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg was quoted as saying in the statement.
He said that ensuring energy independence means exploiting the full potential of the North Sea assets to boost domestic production.
“Producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than importing from abroad,” Rees-Mogg advocated, adding that the new licensing round will help support highly skilled jobs across the UK’s energy industry, boosting both energy security and economy.
The NSTA said oil and gas currently have a share of around three quarters of domestic energy needs and official forecasts show that, even if the demand is reduced, they will continue to play an important role.
“As we transition, maintaining a clean domestic supply to meet that demand can support energy security, jobs and the UK’s world class supply chain,” read the statement.
The drive to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 continues alongside the drive for energy security and both support each other, it added.
“New developments tend to be significantly lower emitting. Production emissions have been cut by more than a fifth between 2018 and 2021. Projections indicate the sector is on track to meet reduction targets of 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027 agreed in the North Sea Transition Deal in 2021,” the NSTA said.
Andy Samuel, the NSTA chief executive, said the UK is forecast to continue importing natural gas as the country transitions to a fully renewables system.
“Our North Sea gas has less than half the footprint of imported LNG,” he said.
This licensing round includes gas discoveries in the southern North Sea that can be rapidly tied back to existing infrastructure, he said.
Samuel also said the security of supply and net zero should not be in conflict.