The Oil and Gas Authority has opened up applications to explore in large areas of the North Sea and West of Shetland.
There are 768 blocks or part-blocks on offer across the main producing areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
It is the 32nd round of licensing for exploratory drilling over more than 50 years, but the first since the UK committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
WWF Scotland described the move as “totally irresponsible”.
But the OGA said oil and gas were still seen as part of Britain’s future energy mix.
“Maximising economic recovery from the UKCS is vital to meet our energy demands and reduce reliance on imports,” it said.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said that opening up more