One of the largest round of licences in more than 50 years for exploration in the North Sea were announced Monday by the British government's Oil and Gas Authority.
The government regulator said in a statement the award of the licences gave a welcome boost to the oil and gas industry.
The 41 new licences awarded Monday in addition to the 134 confirmed in late 2014 make it one of the largest rounds in the five decades since the first licensing round took place in 1964 -- a total of 175 licences covering 353 blocks.
The 28th Offshore Licensing Round was launched in January 2014 and a total of 173 applications were received. The main tranche of awards was announced on Nov. 6, 2014 and Monday's awards have been confirmed following additional environmental assessment and consultation.
Andy Samuel, the Oil and Gas Authority's CEO said: "The UK Continental Shelf remains a world-class hydrocarbon province where significant resources and economic value remain to be realised. The good level of interest in the 28th Round highlights the continued attractiveness of the UK's oil and gas resources."
"Licences are however just a start and industry, government and the OGA now need to work together to revitalise exploration activity across the basin and convert licences into successful exploration wells," said Samuel.
Government Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said: "We are determined to make the most of our North Sea resources to provide secure, reliable energy for hardworking families and businesses and reduce our reliance on volatile foreign imports."
"We are backing our oil and gas industry which supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK. The 28th offshore licensing round comes after the Government announced a major package of support in March to encourage 4 billion pounds (6.2 billion U.S. dollars) of additional investment in the North Sea which will prolong the life of this vital industry," Leadsom said.
The government announcement came on the same day the respected Scottish daily newspaper, the Herald, reported more than 5,500 jobs have been lost in the North Sea energy industry since oil prices plunged, adding that industry experts were predicting many more jobs are set to go in the coming years.
The job losses, says the Herald, comes amid fears that the oil price drop, which began a year ago and saw the price more than halve to less than 50 dollars before making a slight recovery, may stagnate for years to come as part of what may become the worst global oil crash in almost half a century.
The Herald said firms cutting jobs as they struggle to balance the books include BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, while investment and projects previously set to go ahead have been put on hold.
Alex Kemp, professor of petroleum economics and director of Aberdeen center for research in energy economics and finance at Aberdeen University agreed reports that a "silver lining" could emerge as North Sea oil firms become more efficient.
"The next couple of years will be very tough, but the industry will emerge leaner and healthier for the long term. It's not the end of the story, there are enough reserves there for the industry to last quite a long time but at the moment, cost savings are essential," said the expert.
The jobs of around 200,000 people depend on the oil and gas sector in Britain, with the North Sea the largest oil and second largest gas producer in the European Union.