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Oil and Gas Licensing (24th Round)

Volume 456: debated on Thursday 1 February 2007

After thorough consideration of 147 applications made in the 24th offshore licensing round, I have decided to offer 150 production licences. This makes the 24th round one of the most successful in history, which demonstrates the continuing attractiveness both of the United Kingdom continental shelf as an oil-producing province and of DTI's licensing system. In addition to the strategic environmental assessment (SEA), which I described in my Statement to the House when I invited applications for the 24th licensing round, my officials have conducted an appropriate assessment (AA) as required by the habitats and birds directives. I have accepted the conclusions of this AA which concerns those blocks offered as part of the 24th licensing round excluding blocks 17/3, 106/30, 107/21 and 107/22. These four blocks were excluded because the consultation on the draft AA raised questions about the impact of possible oil and gas related activities on marine mammals within particular areas close to the blocks. In considering these issues it became apparent that more time should be taken to consider the issues and I have therefore instructed my officials to commission further work on the sensitivities of these areas and to prepare a second AA for them. This second AA will then be subject to a further period of public consultation before I make a final decision on the four blocks concerned. The awards to be made now are summarised in the table that has been placed in the Library of the House.