July 10 (UPI) -- Opening new acreage to drillers on the British continental shelf sets the stage for a revival for the offshore sector, a government official said Tuesday.
The British Oil & Gas Authority said it was opening up more than 140,000 square miles of offshore territory from the west of Scotland to parts of the English Channel for potential drillers. Andy Samuel, the chief executive of the OGA, said in a statement that "following hot on the heels" of the previous round, the foundation was set "for the ongoing revival in exploration activity across all areas of the U.K. continental shelf."
Under the terms of the licensing rounds, companies have the chance to propose other parts of mature areas where supplementary work could occur. Claire Perry, the British energy minister, said the government has supported surveys, meanwhile, to get a better understanding of the reserve potential in frontier areas.
"That's why we provided $53 million in the 2015 and 2016 budgets for seismic surveys in under-explored frontier areas of the U.K. continental shelf, resulting in new data and new opportunities in this latest round of licensing," she said in a statement.
Trade group Oil & Gas U.K. said the inclusion of seismic data and the focus on frontier opportunities could lead to the start of a new era in British waters.
"Frontier exploration is however a long game and requires businesses to be confident future opportunities," exploration and production policy director Mike Tholen said in an emailed statement. "Fiscal and regulatory stability remains a prerequisite if we are to realize the benefits of exploration activity which is badly needed to boost production and activity."
The British continental shelf holds an estimated 1.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent in potentially commercial, but as yet undeveloped, reserves. The government said the last licensing round could help unlock 320 million barrels of those oil and gas reserves.
Interested parties have until Nov. 7 to apply for the acreage on the auction block. Award announcements are expected by the first half of 2019.