Twelve energy firms have been promised licences to carry out fracking across 27 locations in the UK.
Regulator the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) formally notified the companies that they would be awarded licences for the blocks, which are mainly clustered in Yorkshire and the East Midlands.
Successful companies include Igas, which secured seven blocks, Cirque, which was awarded four, and Cuadrilla, with two. Each block is in the region of 100km2.
The announcement forms the first tranche of the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round – but licences will not be awarded until assessments and consultations have taken place on 132 further blocks. Planning permission and further permits will be required in each area before drilling can begin.
OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said: “With almost 100 applications received, the 14th onshore round has attracted significant interest and high-quality proposed work programmes from a range of oil and gas companies.
“Today’s announcement regarding the offer of 27 blocks gives those successful companies assurance about the blocks that they will be formally offered later in the year.”
Energy minister Lord Bourne said: “As part of our long-term plan to build a more resilient economy, create jobs and deliver secure energy supplies, we continue to back our onshore oil and gas industry and the safe development of shale gas in the UK.
“This is why the OGA has moved quickly to confirm the winners of licence blocks which do not need further environmental assessment.”
Full details of the block awards can be found here.