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UK Launches Massive Oil & Gas Licensing Round

The UK launched its first oil and gas licensing round since 2019 on Friday, aiming to award more than 100 licenses to ramp up domestic oil and gas production and reduce dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the regulator responsible for handling and awarding exploration and production licenses, said on Friday that it “is inviting applications for licenses to explore and potentially develop 898 blocks and part-blocks in the North Sea which may lead to over 100 licenses being awarded.”

According to the authority and the UK government, Britain’s energy security will be “significantly boosted” with the launch of the 33rd licensing round.

The licensing round is part of the new UK government’s efforts to increase domestic production, which also included the government formally lifting the moratorium on shale gas extraction in England last month.

Authorities will be looking at operators starting production after license awards as quickly as possible, and in order to encourage that, the NSTA has identified four priority cluster areas in the Southern North Sea. Those areas have known oil and gas reserves, are close to infrastructure, and have the potential to be developed quickly. The authority will seek to license blocks in these areas ahead of others.   

The application period will run until January 12, 2023, and the first licenses are expected to be awarded in the second quarter of 2023, the NSTA said.

“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,” Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said, commenting on the launch of the licensing round.

“Ensuring our energy independence means exploiting the full potential of our North Sea assets to boost domestic production – recognising that producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than importing from abroad,” Rees-Mogg added.

Environmental campaigners criticized the new licensing round, with Philip Evans, energy transition campaigner for Greenpeace UK, saying, “This government’s energy policy benefits fossil fuel companies and no-one else.”

“New oil and gas licenses won’t lower energy bills for struggling families this winter or any winter soon nor provide energy security in the medium term,” Evans said, as carried by the BBC.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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