The 33rd UK Offshore Licensing Round opened on 7th October 2022 and closed for applications on 12th January 2023. The licensing round was formulated in compliance with the Climate Compatibility Checkpoint which was published in September 2022.
Bidders were offered acreage across 931 blocks in the West of Shetland, Central North Sea, Northern North Sea, Southern North Sea and East Irish Sea. The round attracted a total of 115 bids across 258 blocks and part-blocks, and the bids were made by a total of 76 companies.
On 30th October 2023, it was announced that the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has awarded 27 new licences (covering 55 blocks across the Central and Northern North Sea, and West of Shetland) to 14 operators. It has been reported that these include: (i) thirteen (13) Phase A licences in the Central North Sea and Northern North Sea; (ii) one (1) Phase C licence; and (iii) thirteen (13) straight to second term licences. It was also announced that six further blocks have been merged into five existing licences. The blocks awarded within this first tranche were prioritised as they have the potential to go into production quicker than others, and because they were seen to not require further assessment.
It has been reported that some of the companies which have received offers include: Ithaca, TotalEnergies, Shell, Anasuria Hibiscus, Equinor, Eni and Ping Petroleum, with some of the reported awards comprising the following:
- Anasuria Hibiscus has received offers around the north of Block 15, and has also received an offer to merge 15/12a with the P2518 licence which already exists;
- Ping Petroleum has received an offer for a new permit at Block 21/2a which is located next to its Avalon development at 21/6b;
- TotalEnergies and BP have received an award to merge two further blocks in Block 23 into the P2544 awarded in 2020;
- DNO has received an award, in partnership with Aker BP, around the Bruce field across Block 9;
- Shell has received a number of offers around its operating Pierce and Jackdaw fields, and potentially at Block 204;
- Eni has been offered a number of licences across the southern area of the Central North Sea;
- Equinor has been awarded a total of three operated licences located at: J-structure, Bluebeard and Burdoch.
The NSTA has reported that the announcement is part of its "wider efforts to support the UK's energy security options, which includes the licensing of offshore gas stores and engagement with industry on opportunities to reopen closed wells" and that it will "work with the licensees to make sure that where production can be achieved it happens as quickly as possible".