Subsea Expo

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OGA: Offer of Awards for the UKs 32nd Offshore Licensing Round

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03 September 2020

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has offered for award 113 licence areas over 259 blocks or part-blocks to 65 companies in the 32nd Offshore Licensing Round.

The round offered blocks in mature, producing areas close to existing infrastructure, under the flexible terms of the Innovate Licence. This enables applicants to define a licence duration and phasing that will allow them to execute the optimal work programme. The majority of the licences will enter the Initial Term (Phase A or Phase B exploration stage), and 16 of the awards are for licences that will proceed straight to Second Term, either for potential developments, or re-developments of fields where production had ceased and the acreage had been relinquished.

The OGA provided a suite of new data and analyses, prospect and discovery reports, well and seismic data to support this round. Additionally, the creation of the National Data Repository (NDR) in 2019 significantly improved data availability and access.

Following recent successful annual licensing rounds, as previously announced, the OGA is taking a temporary pause from annual licence round activity and will not run a licence round in what would have been the 2020/21 period. This will allow relinquishments to take place so more coherent areas may be reoffered in future, giving industry time to deliver on work commitments in the existing portfolio of licences. Industry is encouraged to use the pause to acquire data and carry out studies in preparation for the next round. The OGA will engage with industry on the timing and nature of the next offshore licensing round.

Government forecasts point to oil and gas remaining an important part of our energy mix for the foreseeable future, as we move towards net zero, as the UK is still expected to be a net importer. As such, managing the declining production and maximising the economic recovery from the UK remains vital to meet those energy demands as long as they exist, and to reduce reliance on hydrocarbon imports. The OGA is implementing a programme to integrate net zero considerations into its core business, including refreshing its Strategy. Licenses awarded in this 32nd Offshore Licensing Round are expected to be stewarded under this new Strategy.

A full list of the awards and maps can be viewed on the OGA licensing rounds webpage https://www.ogauthority.co.uk/licensing-consents/licensing-rounds/ 

The 32nd Offshore Licensing Round was launched on 11th July 2019 and closed for applications on the 12th November 2019. Applicants have been assessed by the OGA for their financial and technical capability.

Separately, the Assessments of Environmental and Safety aspects of the applications were carried out by the Competent Authority, in accordance with the Offshore Petroleum Licensing (Offshore Safety Directive) Regulations 2015. Where appropriate, the Offshore Petroleum Regulator Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) unit within the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) also undertook further Appropriate Assessment of 82 Blocks to comply with obligations under the Offshore Petroleum Activities (Conservation of Habitats) Regulations 2001 (as amended). The Appropriate Assessments were subject to public consultation between 25th February and 7th April 2020. The consultation response was issued on 2 September 2020. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/32nd-seaward-licensing-round-appropriate-assessment

Licences do not convey permission for development activities including drilling: these require further consents from the OGA.

Drilling activity, or subsequent development, will be subject to activity specific Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Offshore Petroleum Production and Pipe-lines (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1999 (as amended) and the Offshore Petroleum Activities (Conservation of Habitats) Regulations 2001 (as amended) variously require that all activities undertaken in connection with UK offshore hydrocarbon exploration and production are subject to an environmental assessment prior to consent.

On 1 October 2016, the OGA became an independent government company. As a result, decisions previously held by ministers, including exploration and production decisions and approvals, are now held by the OGA Chief Executive, Andy Samuel.