37 licences have been offered to 30 companies in the 31st Offshore Licensing round, which focused on frontier areas of the North Sea. The round has followed recent trends seen in the basin, as European supermajors concentrate on specific areas and US companies leave the region to focus on US shale opportunities. Shell, BP, Total and Equinor are all represented and of these, Equinor has picked up the most awards with five, including four as operator.
This shift has been accompanied by the increasing involvement of private backed companies. Corallian Energy has equalled Equinor with the largest offer of five awards (all as operator), and Chrysaor not far behind on three. A range of independent companies make up the tail with one or two awards, typically as partner, however new entrant Cycle Petroleum was awarded four licences in the Northern North Sea. Mid size companies,such as Cairn Energy and Premier Oil are not represented in the awards.
The region with the largest number of offers is the Central North Sea, with 15 awards. The bulk of these are located in the Moray Firth, where Equinor and Chevron each picked up two licences. Chrysaor was also awarded Block 13/22c in this area, immediately to the south of the Captain heavy oil field and west of the i3 Energy Liberator field. This licence is one of two awards that will progress straight to a second term licence (the other being Shell’s Block 211/13c, adjacent to its Penguins development). The next most popular region was the Northern North Sea and West of Shetland with 11 awards in total.