LONDON, March 23 Britain has awarded 25 licences
for oil and gas exploration in previously untapped waters and
announced a new licensing round for mature areas to be held in
late May or June, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said on
Seventeen companies received exploration licences in a
tender that closed in October. The tender attracted the lowest
interest in 14 years as appetite for finding new oil in the
North Sea has waned amid high costs and weak oil prices.
In a bid to boost interest the OGA had cut rental fees by up
to 90 percent.
The upcoming licensing round for mature areas will be the
"most significant" in decades, the OGA said, because companies
will be able to bid for licences relinquished since the previous
tender for the area in 2014. It will be the 30th licensing round
offering acreage in those areas and other mature parts of the
Despite being an old basin, Britain's North Sea is estimated
to have billions of barrels of oil left for extraction, worth
around 200 billion pounds ($250 billion) to British government
However, drilling activity in Britain's North Sea has been
at a record low for two years due to high costs and the fall in
oil prices, which forced companies to focus on producing assets.
This year, Britain's oil lobby group expects 16 exploration
wells to be drilled, a slight uptick from 14 last year.
Analysts at Wood Mackenzie expect exploration costs to fall
another 10 percent this year because of oversupply in equipment,
which could help make exploration work more economic.
($1 = 0.8016 pounds)
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Susan Fenton)