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UK offers oil, gas exploration licenses to 104 companies

The UK government offered 104 companies new licenses to explore for oil and gas in its portion of the North Sea.

Britain offered 150 exploration and production licenses in the 24th licensing round, one fewer than in the previous round, the government said in an e-mailed statement today. „There are potentially more than 20 billion barrels of oil and gas still available to be produced, which is good news for industry, our economy and energy supply,” Alistair Darling, trade and industry secretary, said in the statement. Oil and gas discoveries in the UK reached the highest level since 2001 last year, with new deposits holding the equivalent of about 500 million barrels, the government said. About 40% of exploration wells found commercial amounts of oil or gas. Of the 104 companies, 17 are newcomers to the UK continental shelf, the government said.

UK natural-gas prices fell for a seventh day, their longest losing streak since September, as mild winter weather in Europe's biggest market for the fuel curbs demand for heat. Natural gas for delivery a day-ahead at the National Balancing Point lost 0.7 pence, or 3%, to 21.4 pence a therm at 11:36 a.m., according to broker ICAP. The price is equivalent to $4.20 per million British thermal units. A therm is 100,000 Btus. High temperatures in London may reach 12 degrees Celsius (54 Fahrenheit) today and 11 degrees tomorrow, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.'s weather Web site. The normal daily high temperature at this time of year is 7 degrees, data from weather service Meteorlogix shows.

Gas was flowing into the UK network at 11:34 a.m. at a rate of 337.3 million cubic meters a day, 6.7 million less than yesterday, according to data from National Grid Plc, the UK gas network operator. Flows of Norwegian gas through the Langeled pipeline were about 51 million cubic meters a day, 6.1 million more than yesterday. Gas was being pumped into the network from Rough, the country's biggest gas-storage facility, at 15.7 million cubic meters a day, about 19 million less than yesterday. Gas for delivery in March at the National Balancing Point fell 1.5% to 22.9 pence a therm, according to broker Spectron Group Plc. Interconnector (UK) Ltd., the owner of a reversible natural-gas pipeline linking Britain and Belgium, is switching the direction of flows today to ship the fuel from the UK to mainland Europe to meet suppliers' demands. Gas for delivery in Zeebrugge, the Belgium trading hub, lost 1.4 pence, or 6%, to 21 pence a therm, according to Spectron. (Bloomberg)