North Sea open to new drilling, British government says

Jan. 24, 2014 at 6:57 AM

LONDON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- British Energy Minister Michael Fallon said Friday new oil and gas operations in British waters of the North Sea will provide a source of economic stimulus.

Fallon announced Friday energy companies can now apply for drilling licenses for the area.

"There continues to be an extremely high level of interest in North Sea oil and gas, which is unsurprising when there could be as many as 20 billion barrels of oil still buried deep within the seabed," he said in a statement. "This new round of drilling for offshore oil and gas will help boost growth, energy security and jobs in the U.K."

More than 30 projects in the region brought in $10.7 billion in tax revenue for the British economy last year.

Energy consulting group Wood Mackenzie said in a Jan. 10 report the region remains attractive to the industry despite the age of some of the oil and gas fields, but it cautioned the high cost of exploration may be a problem long term.

Fallon offered no estimate of the reserve potential for the new license areas. Applications are due April 25.

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