Major oil companies like BP PLC (NYSE:BP), Royal Dutch Shell SA (NYSE:RDS-A), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), ExxonMobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM), Total SA (NYSE:TOT) and Apache Corp. (NYSE:APA) were awarded gas and oil licenses by the British government to drill in the North Sea.
According the the government, 83 companies were awarded 144 licenses to drill for oil and gas in over 268 blocks in the region.
Although a lower number of licenses were awarded than the previous round of licensing in 2008, where 192 were offered, another 99 blocks entailing up to 45 licenses will be available after more research is done on them.
Oil production in British waters have dropped by about 5 percent annually since peaking in 1999 at 2.6 million barrels a day. In the next five years, even with an estimated 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent estimated to be left in the North Sea, production is expected to drop to about 1 million barrels a day.
In 2009-2010, 1.36 million barrels a day are being produced in British waters.
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