LONDON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - BG Group's Andy Samuel will head Britain's Oil & Gas Authority (OGA), a new regulator charged with fostering cooperation between government and industry to get the remaining barrels out of the North Sea.
The OGA, expected to be up and running by April 2015, is being established following recommendations in Sir Ian Wood's strategic industry review published earlier this year.
The review identified the need for an agency with greater powers to maximise oil and gas recovery from the UK North Sea. An effective regulator is seen as vital if the United Kingdom's offshore oil and gas industry is to continue to thrive.
Samuel's appointment was announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on Thursday.
The current "light touch" regulator, which is part of the Department of Energy, is seen as under-resourced and less able to grapple with the challenges of getting the remaining oil and gas out of a region where costs are rising and many fields have become marginal and interdependent.
Samuel is managing director of BG Group's Exploration and Production in Europe. DECC said he would be involved in any decisions vital to the OGA's establishment made before he takes up the full-time position of chief executive on Jan. 1, 2015.
Samuel's early priorities will be to establish the OGA, equip it with the right people, skills and culture, and to establish a strong partnership with government and industry as part of the new tripartite approach.
Sir Ian Wood, a respected industry veteran, said Samuel's "impressive experience and the significant credibility he holds within the industry" would put him in a very strong position to foster the collaboration needed.
Malcolm Webb, chief executive of industry body Oil & Gas UK, welcomed the appointment, saying Samuel was a "highly-respected industry figure" with the right qualities for the role.
"The government has chosen wisely in selecting Andy Samuel to take the helm," he said.
"We are at a critical stage in the history of UK offshore oil and gas development and bold steps need to be taken now to ensure strong activity continues into the future," he said.
The government is also asking industry and others for views on how best to deliver the next stage of Wood's recommendations.
In a call for evidence, which will close on Dec. 31, 2014, the government invited responses on the governance and scope of the new regulator, its strategy, its new powers and its ability to levy sanctions.
The government also announced 134 licences covering 252 blocks as part of the 28th offshore licensing round. Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said it was on track to be one of its biggest rounds in five decades.
Oonagh Werngren, Oil & Gas UK's operations manager, noted that more than 60 companies had applied for licences, with the majority being smaller investors.
However, only five firm wells and four contingent wells were included in the work programmes, with most licences awarded on the basis of obtaining or reprocessing 2D and 3D seismic data.
"The disappointingly low number of wells highlights the need to stimulate new plays through detailed technical work, which requires measures to encourage more investment," she said.
(Editing by David Clarke)
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