LONDON, May 24 (UPI) -- More than 200 applications were submitted to the British government for oil and gas drilling in the North Sea, a record level according to the government.
The British Department of Energy and Climate Change said 224 applications were submitted for a licensing round for 446 oil and natural gas blocks on the country's continental shelf. It's the largest number of applications submitted since licensing rounds began for offshore blocks in 1964.
British Minister of State for Energy Charles Hendry said the oil and natural gas sector is among the largest investors in the country's economy.
"We have been working extremely hard with the oil and gas industry to ensure the U.K. remains an attractive place to invest," he said in a statement.
The British economy is in recession.
The DECC noted that any licenses awarded would be subject to "a range of legislation" meant to ensure the marine ecosystem is protected from damages associated with oil and natural gas operations.
The U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration estimates the country holds an estimated 2.9 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves, with the bulk of that located in the North Sea. Natural gas production, meanwhile, is in decline.