HC Deb 09 June 1992 vol 209 cc127-8W
Mr. Andrew Mitchell

To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he will announce the results of the fifth landward licensing round.

Mr. Eggar

I have today announced the conditional award of 26 new exploration licences for blocks in England, Wales and Scotland. The licences allow companies to search and drill for petroleum, subject to the requirements of the planning system and the technical approval of my Department.

Details of the awards have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

I am encouraged by the interest shown in onshore petroleum operations which contributes both to our knowledge of our oil and gas reserves and to their development.

This round was notable for the presence of companies new to the onshore petroleum exploration scene. Onshore exploration can offer significant opportunities to the smaller companies to gain experience in the petroleum business as well as contributing to the general development of the industry.

In 13 of the new licences, the licensees are primarily interested in the potential for the exploitation of methane gas which occurs in and around coal seams. I am very encouraged by this continuing interest. This is a relatively new venture in Great Britain. The first licences to explore the potential for coal bed methane were awarded in the fourth round. Although it is early days yet to make any forecasts on the potential for the exploitation of this resource in the United Kingdom, we remain confident that it could represent a valuable addition to our future energy supplies.