The UK Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) has awarded another 132 new shale gas licenses under the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round.
The latest offering is in addition to 27 licenses that were awarded during the first tranche of the 14th round in August 2015.
Around 75% of the blocks awarded relate to unconventional shale oil or gas.
Shale gas companies IGas, Egdon Resources, Cuadrilla Resources and Ineos are among the selected companies that obtained the new licences.
OGA offered the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL) after completing a detailed environmental assessment of the proposed blocks under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
“This round enables a significant amount of the UK’s shale prospects to be taken forward to be explored and tested.”
Following the conclusion of a public consultation process, the OGA concluded that the award of the individual PEDLs will not have an adverse effect on the integrity of any protected European site.
OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said: “This round enables a significant amount of the UK’s shale prospects to be taken forward to be explored and tested.
“Upon acceptance of these offers, applicants will be issued with licences and will be able to begin planning their future strategies for exploration activities. These will be subject to further local planning, safety, environmental and other authorisations.”
Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said: “The licences offered today move us a step closer – driving forwards this industry which will provide secure, home grown energy to hardworking families and businesses for decades to come.
“Alongside conventional drilling sites, we need to get shale gas moving. As the Task Force for Shale Gas report found earlier this week, with the right standards in place fracking can take place safely.”
Cuadrilla has secured two new exploration licences, block SE95 in the South Cleveland Basin and block SE40f in the Gainsborough Trough and each one are about 100kmÂ² in area.
Ineos was awarded 21 new shale gas licences in the East Midlands and the North West.
Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe said: “At Ineos, we believe shale gas could revolutionise UK manufacturing and we have the resources to make it happen, the skills to extract the gas safely and the vision to realise that communities must share in the rewards for it to be successfully developed.”
IGas has secured a further ten blocks in the licensing round, which together with the seven blocks awarded in the first tranche, represent a total additional gross area of about 270,000 acres.
Egdon Resources has been offered 11 blocks, which will cover a total area of about 1126kmÂ², and are located in the East Midlands Petroleum Province and the Cleveland Basin.