LONDON (Dow Jones)–The U.K. has awarded 46 new licenses to explore for oil and gas in the North Sea, the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced on its website Friday.
The awards, part of the country’s 26th offshore oil and gas licensing round, came as the U.K. handed out 144 licenses in total. Companies to snap up the new exploration blocks include Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA.LN), Germany’s Wintershall AG and France’s GDF Suez SA (GSZ.FR).
“These further licenses have been subject to rigorous examination, and we are now satisfied that initial exploration can go ahead,” said Energy Minister Charles Hendry.
“These continued high levels of interest, and the award today of these licenses, gives me yet more reason to be optimistic for a prosperous 2012 for the U.K. oil and gas sector,” Hendry added.
-By Alexis Flynn, Dow Jones Newswires