The United Kingdom has awarded 159 onshore licenses to explore for oil and natural gas, which could lead to an increase in shale gas development in the country.
Last week, the UK's Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), a new agency within the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said licenses for the blocks had been formally offered to successful applicants who had participated in its 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round. Onshore and offshore licensing rounds are generally held every other year.
According to the OGA, the latest round was held between July and October 2014. The agency received 95 applications from 47 companies for the round, which had offered 295 blocks before the government decided not to award licenses in Scotland and Wales.
"Following the conclusion of the consultation process, [we are] now satisfied that the approval of the [round] -- and the award of each of the licenses under the round -- will not have an adverse effect on the integrity of any protected European site," OGA said.
Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., which last July was denied an application to drill up to four test wells in England's Lancashire County (see Shale Daily, July 6), said Thursday that it had received 16 licenses. The licenses will allow the company to explore for oil and gas in the Cleveland Basin in East Yorkshire and the Gainsborough Trough in South Yorkshire.
"The award of these licenses gives Cuadrilla a leading position in each of the three most prospective shale gas exploration areas in Northern England," CEO Francis Egan said. "The massive potential for the natural gas to be extracted in these areas could help to drive the Northern Powerhouse by securing the low carbon energy future of the UK as well as creating investment and local jobs across the region."
In a separate statement Thursday, Egdon Resources plc said it had been awarded 18 licenses during the round, in blocks prospective to the East Midlands Petroleum Province and the Cleveland Basin.
"We are delighted with this outcome in what has been a very competitive licensing round," said Mark Abbott, Egdon managing director. "The blocks we have been offered in the [round] overall will provide further significant opportunities to grow our business and will be excellent additions to Egdon's portfolio of UK exploration and development assets."
IGas Energy plc said it was awarded 17 blocks during the round, in the Gainsborough Trough and the Singleton and Bletchingley fields in the Weald Basin. CEO Stephen Bowler said the new blocks would increase its acreage across UK shale basins by 25%.
"This is a critical time for the future of Britain's energy mix as gas, of which 50% of our consumption is currently imported, is central to our energy security as we transition to a lower-carbon environment," Bowler said.
Last May, a poll found that 43% of respondents said Britain should not extract shale gas, while 32% supported drilling and 25% had no opinion. The poll also found that 49% of respondents would oppose hydraulic fracturing if it went ahead in a nearby town or village, but the opposition slipped to 47% if their local council received £100,000 ($156,100) from such a drilling scenario.