Britain's new licences for North Sea drilling

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The Independent Online

The UK handed out 167 new licences to drill for oil and gas in the North Sea yesterday, with BP, Shell, Centrica and France's Total among the biggest recipients.

The number of licences was one of the highest ever awarded in the North Sea's history, and came as the Government announced that proven and probable reserves were 5 per cent more than previously thought, at 788 million tonnes.

Separately, Shell is to ramp up its North Sea production after agreeing to buy Hess Corporation's interests in 12 fields in the Beryl Area of the UK Continental Shelf for $525m (£325m).