The United Kingdom Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) announced 41 new licenses Monday to explore the U.K. Continental Shelf in the North Sea.
An additional 134 licenses were awarded in November 2014. The total of 175 licenses makes the round of applications among the largest since the licensing process began in 1964.
"The U.K. Continental Shelf remains a world-class hydrocarbon province where significant resources and economic value remain to be realized. The good level of interest in the 28th round highlights the continued attractiveness of the U.K.'s oil and gas resources. Licenses are, however, just a start and industry, government and the OGA now need to work together to revitalize exploration activity across the basin and convert licenses into successful exploration wells," OGA Chief Executive Andy Samuels said in a statement Monday.
The announcement is welcome news for a beleaguered industry. Britain's Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has suggested the days of high tax revenue from North Sea oil and gas exploration has passed; it cut its forecast for tax revenue from 37 billion pounds ($57.54 billion) to just 2 billion pounds ($3.11 billion) over the next 20 years, following a 2014 downturn in the price of oil from $120 a barrel to about $50.
The OGA is expected to convert to a government-owned company, separating itself from the United Kingdom's Department of Energy and Climate Change, during the next session of parliament.