Energy Minister John Hayes

North Sea oil and gas licences offered

The UK Government says more than 160 new oil and gas production licences have been offered to companies seeking to explore the North Sea.

The licenses cover 330 "blocks" of the sea and if completed would represent a sharp increase in the level of exploration. A further 61 blocks are still being assessed for the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration.

The 167 offers today follow news in May of record breaking levels of interest in exploring new blocks of the North Sea, when 224 applications were made for 418 blocks of the UK continental shelf.

Energy Minister John Hayes said: "Fortune has favoured the UK. Oil and gas from our waters provides around half the energy we need to heat our homes, fuel our cars and power our industry.

"It is the single largest industrial UK investor, supporting 440,000 jobs, and benefits the UK's trade balance to the tune of £40 billion.

"This successful licensing round shows we are taking the right action to offer certainty and confidence to investors.

"Our fiscal regime is now encouraging small fields into production and our licensing regime supports new faces as well the big players to invest.

"Importantly, we are guaranteeing every last economic drop of oil and gas is produced for the benefit of the UK.

"It is our work with industry that is cultivating this precious resource, making our seas a fertile landscape for investors for many years to come."

In a written statement to Parliament, Hayes said the new licenses would ensure Britain continues to "make the most" of its energy resources.

Last year, Chancellor George Osborne was accused of damaging North Sea investment after his shock £10 billion tax raid on producers.

But industry leaders have since said that measures in this year's Budget on decommissioning and brownfield allowances have created the stability they require.

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