The list of winners was dominated by independents, such as Encana and OilExCo, and most of the minimum work programs involved acquiring seismic data and drilling just one well.
Wilson said he sought to encourage small companies to use new technology in the ageing province, where oil output peaked in 1999 at 2.8 million barrels per day. Oil major such as ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and TotalFinaElf pump half of Britain's oil and gas, and own most of the licenses. But these companies figured in just two awards. The government has been pushing majors to invest in unexplored licenses from previous rounds, or risk losing the contracts to smaller companies.
In this 20th offshore round, Wilson said he had shortened the exploration and appraisal period, before investing in production, to prevent the appearance of "fallow acreage" in the future.
The first two terms will last for four years each, from six and 12 years respectively, and there will be mandatory relinquishment of all acreage not covered by a development plan at the end of the second term. "All this is part of the government's strategy of bringing together acreage with companies best fitted to exploit it," Wilson said.
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