52 exploration licences for offshore oil and gas exploration have been awarded by the UK government in the last round of tenders.
The licences, announced on Friday, form the last part of the UK government’s 27th offshore round. All together 219 licences have been granted in a bid to secure the UK’s energy resources before old infrastructure is decommissioned.
"It is vital that we maximise the opportunities available both in the North Sea and onshore to boost growth, energy security and jobs," said Britain's Energy Minister, Michael Fallon.
Among the companies awarded the licences were 21 new entrants to the market, mostly smaller and independent enterprises.
Britain's fossil fuel reserves are declining quickly and the focus has been shifted to linking new oil and gas fields to existing infrastructure rather than building new facilities.
Some new prospects can only be developed economically if they can draw on pipelines and platforms that are already in place but the established operators that run these are beginning to plan to shut them down.
The government estimates that around 20 billion barrels of oil and gas can still be retrieved from the British North Sea. It plans to launch its next offshore licencing round in January.
Next year, Britain will also hold its 14th tender for onshore oil and gas permits, a round that is expected to attract high demand due to growing interest in shale gas exploration.
The round has been delayed by around four years after the licensing process was suspended following earth tremors caused by shale gas exploration, or fracking, in Lancashire, northwest England.