HC Deb 14 June 1994 vol 244 cc416-8W
Mr. Alton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many of the blocks on the United Kingdom continental shelf that have been licensed to oil companies, and have been identified as containing oil and gas reserves, have remained undeveloped for more than eight years since the blocks were first licensed; what are the combined estimated reserves of those blocks; and how many blocks lie off the coast of the north-west of England.

Mr. Eggar

Up until the end of 1985, there are a total of 106 significant discoveries in 87 blocks without development approval.

Of these 106 significant discoveries, 15—in 13 blocks—are presently under discussion for development.

The remaining 91 significant discoveries—in 77 blocks—contain estimated total gas reserves of 5,777 billion cubic feet, and oil and condensate reserves of 1,767 million barrels.

One discovery block of these 91 discoveries is in the north-west area of England.

Mr. Alton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans the Government have to encourage oil companies to bring forward their development plans to maintain the level of United Kingdom engineering expertise.

Mr. Eggar

I have frequent discussions with the oil industry to see whether there are any fiscal measures that can be introduced which will encourage development.

In addition to this, my officials review with the companies on a regular basis their programmes for future developments. Where they identify discoveries with no foreseeable development, the companies are encouraged to offer them, by sale or swap, to other companies.

Mr. Alton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade under what circumstances blocks that have been licensed to oil companies can be confiscated on the grounds that they have not been developed; and what is the maximum period a block can be left unexplored or undeveloped before the Government will take action.

Mr. Eggar

Under the current regulations that govern licences in seaward areas, licensees are required to submit a development plan within a period of 18 years if the licence period is to be extended. If there is any breach or non-observance by the licensees of any terms and conditions of the licence, including exploration and drilling commitments, the Secretary of State may revoke the licence.

Mr. Ainger

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list those blocks which he considers should never be licensed for oil exploration because of their environmental sensitivity.

Mr. Heseltine

[holding answer 26 May 1994]: I attach great importance to environmental considerations in the exploration for our oil and gas reserves, and will continue to do so. Knowledge of environmental sensitivities is developing over time, as are the methods of addressing them and the techniques used in exploration. I will, of course, continue to discuss the offer of blocks with environmental organisations—including the Joint Nature Conservation Committee—and will take their views into account when deciding which blocks can be licensed.

Mr. Llwyd

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will give details of the allocation of blocks to companies for oil and gas in the Irish sea; and what environmental restrictions have been put on these companies.

Mr. Eggar

The following operating companies hold licences to explore for oil and gas in the Irish Sea and develop any finds:

Amoco 113/29, 113/30

Arco 107/21

British Gas Exploration and Production 110/2A, 110/2B, 110/3A, 110/8A, 110/9A, 110/15, 111/3, 111/4, 111/8, 110/10, 111/15, 113/26A, 113/27A

Chevron 103/3, 106/28, 106/29, 110/18

Clyde 113/28

Conoco 110/5, 110/11A

Deminex 109/15

Elf Enterprise Caledonia 108/29, 108/30, 111/25, 111/29, 111/30

Esso 112/10, 112/14, 112/15, 113/11

Hamilton 103/2, 103/7, 107/1, 107/6, 110/6, 110/7C, 110/13, 110/15

Kelt 110/7B

Marathon 102/10, 103/1, 103/6, 106/18, 106/19, 106/23, 106/27, 110/17

Oryx 110/3B, 110/3C, 110/9B

Premier 110/10

Ranger 110/4

Where necessary, appropriate conditions have been attached to licences to protect any environmental sensitivities which have been identified. A copy of each of the environmental protection conditions which were attached to licences awarded in the 14th round of licensing has been placed in the Library of the House.

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