The British regulator overseeing the latest North Sea oil and gas licensing round will prioritize companies aiming to bring natural gas to market within months, its head said on Wednesday.
Britain launched last year its first oil and gas exploration licensing round since 2019 as part of the government's efforts to boost domestic hydrocarbon output in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), which regulates the ageing basin's operations, will start awarding licenses to bidders at the end of the second quarter of 2023, its Chief Executive Stuart Payne told Reuters.
"We are doing it slightly differently this time because we are deliberately prioritizing sequentially those who can bring gas to market very fast," Payne said on the sidelines of the CERAWeek conference in Houston.
The NSTA will initially target producers that can bring production online within 18 months, he said.
While development of large oil and gas reservoirs can often take years, smaller reservoirs located close to existing platforms can be drilled, connected and brought to production within months.
Interest in the licensing round was dealt a blow late last year, after the government imposed a second round of windfall tax on oil and gas producers which brought total tax on the sector to 75%, one of the highest in the world.
Harbour Energy, the largest U.K. producer, shunned the licensing round and said it will review its investments in Britain.
The NSTA, which oversees producers' efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, also said that flaring of unwanted natural gas on platforms halved between 2018 and 2022.
(Reuters - Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by David Gregorio)