Trap Oil said the Japan Exploration Company has joined a strategic consortium it formed with a view to bidding for exploration acreage in the forthcoming 28th UK Licensing round.
Aim-listed Trap Oil formed the consortium in May with Japan's CIECO and Abu Dhabi-owned TAQA Bratani. The company said it expects the consortium will apply for an unspecified number of exploration licences in the 28th round.
Chief executive Mark Groves Gidney said the consortium's membership reflected growing interest in the UK North Sea. While the area is considered to be a mature province , Mr Groves Gidney noted many overseas firms are demonstrating their belief in the possibility of making worthwhile finds in UK waters by signing up for licences.
"The welcome addition of JAPEX to our strategic consortium demonstrates the commitment that major international companies, with significant financial resources, are willing to make in pursuit of successful exploration and appraisal applications in the 28th Licensing Round," said Mr Groves Gidney.
Last year's UK Licensing Round generated record levels of interest.
Some 224 applications were submitted in the 27th round covering 418 blocks of the UK Continental Shelf.
Oil and gas firms are also ramping up investment in production.
Sector players have developed plans to invest £44 billion bringing new fields onstream on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf and boosting output from existing producing assets in coming years.
London-based Trap Oil said the main purpose of the consortium would be to consider exploration and appraisal opportunities.
The company said: "Each party will, in principle, hold equal working interests in prospects proposed by Trapoil for joint exploration and appraisal applications in the 28 Licensing Round.
"Each of the parties has agreed to pay Trapoil a lump-sum retainer and to partially carry Trapoil's portion of exploration and appraisal costs."