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    North Sea oil and gas licence applications highest for 35 years

    News // June 20, 2006

    Is the North Sea oil and gas industry in its twilight years? Clearly not, says the UK' sEnergy Minister.

    A 35-year record 147 applications by 121 companies for new UK oil and gas exploration and production licences point to a continuing strong interest in the North Sea, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said yesterday, as the 24th Licensing Round applications deadline passed.

    Applications for the non-traditional 'Promote' licence, specifically designed to encourage newer and smaller firms to enter the sector, exceeded last year's, as did applications for 'Traditional' licences.

    The oil and gas Government and industry partnership PILOT's annual report, also published yesterday, describes improvements to the business climate for smaller oil and gas firms in the 2005/6 period.

    PILOT-Government innovations like the non-traditional licences have fostered growing investment in the sector, it comments.

    Emphasising the Government's commitment to maximise the exploitation of the UK's remaining North Sea oil and gas Malcolm Wicks said: "Some say the North Sea is in its twilight years.  But the record numbers of licence applications belie this. Interest in the North Sea is still high because determined companies realise that our remaining reserves almost match what we have already exploited."

    "Lately the spotlight has rightly been on cleaner energy -renewables and nuclear - but we still need oil and gas and this surge of interest in the North Sea reflects that," said the Minister. "New technologies now make it easier to tap previously hard-to-reach reserves," he said, noting that the UK is 'on-track' to meet its PILOT-agreed 2010 production target.

    The DTI hopes to make licence offers in the autumn.

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