London: The UK’s North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has awarded 24 licences as part of the second tranche of the country’s 33rd oil and gas licensing round.

Major industry players such as Shell, Equinor, BP, Total and NEO are among the 17 companies that have been offered licences.

This follows the initial allocation of 27 licences in October 2023.

According to the NSTA, these awards will contribute to job security and provide economic benefits both locally and nationally.

The 74 blocks and part-blocks offered in this tranche are located in the central North Sea, northern North Sea and West of Shetland areas.

The NSTA has indicated that additional licences will be offered in the coming months.

The remaining blocks, primarily situated in the southern North Sea and east Irish Sea, are pending environmental evaluations.

The 33rd licensing round, which opened in October 2022, saw more than 900 blocks made available for bidding.

It is a crucial component of the NSTA’s strategy to support the oil and gas industry, which is responsible for approximately three-quarters of the UK’s domestic energy supply.

According to official forecasts, the industry’s contribution is expected to remain significant even as demand for fossil fuels decreases.

An NSTA spokesperson said: “This latest batch brings total offers so far to 51, with more to come once the appropriate environmental checks are complete.

“These licences have the potential to make a significant contribution to the UK in energy production and economic benefits, and the NSTA will work alongside the licensees to help bring them into production as quickly as possible.”

UK Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero Graham Stuart said: “We will continue to need oil and gas over the coming decades, so it is common sense to make the most of our own resources – with domestically produced gas almost four-times cleaner than importing liquefied natural gas from abroad.

“These new licences will strengthen our energy security now and into the future, while also helping boost our economy, by backing an industry that supports 200,000 jobs and is worth £16bn each year.”