Applications for the new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea open
The Oil and Gas Authority has opened applications to explore large areas of the North Sea and West Shetland.
There are 768 blocks or partial blocks on offer in the main producing areas of UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
It is the 32nd round of licenses for exploratory drilling for more than 50 years, but the first since the United Kingdom undertook to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
WWF Scotland described the move as “totally irresponsible.”
But the OGA said oil and gas were still seen as part of Britain’s future energy mix.
“Maximizing the UKCS economic recovery is vital to meet our energy demands and reduce dependence on imports,” he said.
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The director of WWF Scotland, Lang Banks, said that opening up more areas for oil and gas exploration “undermines other efforts to address the climate emergency”.
He added: “Instead, we need to see a just transition that allows us to take advantage of the engineering skills currently implemented in the oil and gas industry and apply them to support a range of cleaner forms of energy production.”
A new aspect of the last round of licenses includes cooperation at the time of licensing with the government of the Faroe Islands.
The authority has also provided access to a huge data bank of information from past drilling of thousands of wells, seismic surveys of seabeds and pipelines.
This information is valuable to increase the chances of finding oil and gas and reduce financial risk.
An industry report in November 2018 estimated that the UK has sufficient oil reserves to sustain production for the next 20 years and more.
The deadline for applications is November 12, 2019, and decisions are expected to be made in the second quarter of 2020.