New Entrants Sink £90 Million into North Sea

Innovations in oil exploration are paying dividends for 12 new entrants to the North Sea who have secured around £90 million for further exploration thanks to 'promote' licenses issued in 2003, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks announced today.

The licenses, offered at a tenth of the cost of traditional licenses for the first two years, are designed to pull in smaller firms and are generating a higher percentage of drilling than traditional licenses, in what would otherwise remain unused and unexplored acreage.

Speaking at an annual PILOT meeting, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said:

"These results prove both the innovative drive of the firms involved and the success of the promote license concept, without which most of this acreage would not have been touched by the traditional license route. They have exceeded everybody's expectations.

"When the first promote licenses were issued 2 years ago, we knew the promoters had the skills to be successful but they needed to attract the capital to put their ideas into action, and that's what the licenses have enabled them to do."

"With clear work commitments - including 15 firm wells, a possible further seven to be started before the end of September 2007 and one proposed development - it's a great vote of confidence in the future of the North Sea.

"These companies have come up trumps by successfully promoting or developing the acreage to attract investment. It is worth remembering- and I congratulate those companies which have successfully pushed forward activity in this manner."

The recent 23rd Oil and Gas Licensing Round set an all time record of 152 licenses, 76 of which were Promote, offered to 99 companies including 24 new entrants. PILOT is a joint partnership between government and the UK oil and gas industry that aims to secure a long term industry in the UK, including maximizing recovery of the remaining reserves in the North Sea.

Of the 54 promote licenses issued in 2003, 24 will continue. This is very positive with over 40% continuing with substantial work commitment pushing forward UKCS exploration effort. Details of the 21st Round promote licenses which will continue into a new phase are set out at the foot of this press notice. Those licenses that are not being renewed will be made available in the next offshore round.

DTI created the promote license - offered at a tenth of the cost of a traditional license for the first 2 years - to encourage smaller companies with good ideas to apply for acreage and work up prospects to either sell on bring in other investors. 188 promote licenses have been awarded so far, 54 in the 21st Round, 58 in the 22nd, and 76 in the latest - 23rd Round, bringing in around 35 new entrants to the North Sea.

Work commitments include 15 firm wells (5 of which have already been drilled) and 7 new seismic surveys with associated contingent wells to be spudded before the end of September 2007, and one proposed development. The levels of drilling committed to equate to 27% of 21st Round promote licenses compared with 22% for the 21st Round traditional licenses.

Further information on the license interest holders and blocks in question can be found DTI's license database:

Below is a list of the successful promote licenses:

P1084 - drilled                Reach, Petro-Canada
P1105 - drilled                Century Exploration (UK) Ltd
P1125 - drilled                Challenger Minerals (North Sea) Ltd
P1129 - drilled                Challenger Minerals (North Sea) Ltd
P1132 - drilled                Century Exploration, Antrim Energy
P1067 - firm well               DNO UK Ltd
P1077 - firm well               Nautical Petroleum Plc
P1078 - firm well               Xcite Energy Resources Ltd
P1079 - firm well               Exmar Oil and Gas Ltd
P1089 - firm well               Challenger Minerals (North Sea) Ltd
P1120 - firm well               Maersk Oil (UK) Ltd
P1130 - firm well               Deltaic System Ltd
P1131 - firm well               Europa Oil and Gas UK Ltd
P1138 - firm well               Wintershall Noordzee B.V.
P1147 - firm well               Wintershall Noordzee B.V.
P1080 - proposed development    Exmar Oil and Gas Ltd
P1064 - new seismic + cont well Sterling Resources UK
P1082 - new seismic + cont well Ithaca Energy (UK) Ltd
P1095 - new seismic + cont well Kerr-McGee
P1096 - new seismic + cont well Century Exploration (UK) Ltd
P1107&1109 - new seismic + cont well Challenger Minerals
                            (North Sea) Ltd
P1141 - new seismic + cont well GTO Wham Energy Plc
P1151 - new seismic + cont well Century Exploration (UK) Ltd

30 licenses not continuing:

P1065, 1066, 1068, 1069, 1073, 1076, 1081, 1085, 1087, 1088, 
P1093, 1103, 1106, 1108, 1110, 1111, 1112, 1113, 1115, 1116, 
P1121, 1122, 1124, 1128, 1137, 1140, 1142, 1143, 1145, 1148. 

Company: U.K. Department of Trade & Industry more info
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