HC Deb 23 May 1985 vol 79 c535W
Mr. Needham

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects to announce licence awards under the ninth round of offshore licensing.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

[pursuant to the reply, 23 January 1985, c. 418]: I have today announced the conditional awards of petroleum production licences for a further 80 blocks in the ninth round. These lie in all the areas in which blocks were offered. They include the deep water frontier areas of the Rockall and Faeroes troughs; the other frontier areas of the central and extreme southern North sea and the Celtic sea; the intermediate areas of the English Channel and West Shetlands basin; and mature areas in the northern and southern North sea and Morecambe bay.

On January 23 of this year my right hon. Friend announced awards for 13 cash tender blocks applied for in the auction part of the round, bringing in a total of 121.3 million. Today's awards bring the ninth round to a very successful conclusion. A record number of applications were received, and the extent of the work obligations involved is high.

The total of 93 awards is significantly greater than the maximum of 80 we originally expected to be able to make. We also achieve our objective of opening up new frontier areas, including some in deeper water than we have previously licensed. The awards also reflect the continuing high level of interest in gas exploration and development.

Some of the blocks which I am licensing today lie close to the coast. In inviting applications for these blocks I made two matters clear. First, that there will need to be special arrangements because of the sensitivity of these areas for fishing, wildlife and navigation. Secondly, I expect the licensees, if and when they come to consider development plans for such blocks, to carry out a study into the implications and impact of the proposed development.

I would also expect the study to be carried out in consultation with all interested parties including the relevant local authorities, and with fishing and environmental bodies. I emphasise the importance of these matters.

More particularly, I have requested and obtained from all applicants, including the successful companies, confirmation of their acceptance of the special arrangements. I have set out certain essential elements which must be included in the contingency plans to be considered by my Department before drilling can take place. The purpose of these plans is to ensure a rapid response to any oil spill, access to adequate resources in reserve, and good liaison with the relevant local and other authorities.

A copy of the list of awards and the list of elements has been lodged in the Libraries of both Houses.