More licenses than ever before are being offered to companies to extract oil and gas from the North Sea, Energy Minister Mike O'Brien announced today.
The announcement will help the UK to make the most of its own home grown supplies of energy.
As part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change' s 25th offshore oil and gas licensing round, 171 new licences are being offered to 100 companies covering 257 blocks of the North Sea.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Mike O'Brien said, "We are now seeing record interest from companies wishing to exploit the UK's considerable oil and gas resources in the North Sea. Whilst there's not an endless supply of North Sea oil and gas, with up to 20 billion barrels, or more, left under the sea we can't overlook its contribution to our security of energy supply as well as to our economy.
"The oil and gas sector is one of the UK's most important industries and this latest result can only reinforce and maintain this position. While we work to develop low carbon sources of energy, oil and gas will continue to be an important source of energy for the UK. And that's why our ambition is to squeeze as much oil and gas out of the North Sea as is possible."
Following a screening exercise, it has been decided that 46 of the blocks applied for should be subject to more detailed assessments of the likely effects of oil and gas activities on certain protected nature conservation areas. A decision on whether to grant licenses for these blocks will be subject to the results of the environmental assessments.
Through a joint initiative with industry, Government has been working on measures to encourage greater investment in the North Sea, which includes innovations to the licensing system, increased emphasis on brown fields stewardship and the fallow initiative. As a result we have seen high levels of interest and activity in recent years.
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