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Drive for North Sea drilling licences starts

The Government has launched a new licensing round for drilling for offshore oil and gas in the North Sea.

Ministers said there was a high level of interest from companies, adding that around 20 billion barrels of oil could still be buried.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: "This new round of drilling for offshore oil and gas will help boost growth, energy security and jobs in the UK."

A record number of licences were awarded in the previous round, including 21 new entrants, taking the total number of companies in the North Sea to 50.

Last year, 36 offshore projects were approved, and the sector now supports 350,000 jobs.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "Given all the tax breaks provided for decommissioning old rigs and encouraging exploration in once-unviable areas, it's hardly surprising that there's so much interest by companies in even more oil and gas drilling in the North Sea. However, given the urgent need to reduce our climate emissions, we urgently need to see ministers set out a clear plan to move away from fossil fuels."

Applications for the so-called 28th licensing round will have to be submitted by April 25.

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